Look Back In Anger Characters

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Look Back In Anger Characters

Looking Back in Anger is a play by John Osborne, first published in 1956.This article described the characters in the play.


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Look Back In Anger Characters / John Osborne

Look Back In Anger is a play by an English playwright, screenwriter, and actor, John Osborne, published in 1956. The play marked his first outing as a playwright. Look Back In Anger is realistic and autobiographical; Osborne drew inspiration from his marriage with Pamela.

The play tells the story of a couple — Jimmy Porter and Alison Porter — who share their attic apartment with a Welsh working-class man, Cliff Lewis. Jimmy’s marriage is deteriorating; he taunts his wife unstoppably, and Cliff usually steps in to keep the peace. 

Jimmy is hot-tempered and abusive towards his wife for her impassiveness and resents her upper-middle-class heritage in contrast to his working class. Alison’s friend, Helena, after she visits them and witnesses Jimmy’s cruelty against Alison, persuades Alison to leave the marriage. 

Despite Alison being pregnant for Jimmy, she takes Helena’s advice and leaves, only to come back after having a miscarriage to discover Helena is having an affair with Jimmy. Due to Helena’s sense of morality, she apologizes and leaves the apartment.


Jimmy Porter

He’s the protagonist of the novel. Jimmy is a well-educated, versatile, 25-year-old British man living in the industrial midlands of England. He intends to purchase a candy stall and resents the decline of British major roles in the world. Young Jimmy thinks of himself as being honest. He’s often caught being brutally harsh towards her emotionless Alison and Cliff. He tickles Alison’s placid nature to defend his cruelty towards her. Jimmy strongly believes one has to suffer to feel true human emotion and thinks both Helena and Alison are impassive because they’re yet to suffer. 

He told them both how he watched his father die painfully when he was just ten years old and claimed that sorrowful incident alone taught him a lesson that Alison and Helena are yet to experience. He thinks Helena and Alison are lifeless and irrational for never going through physical and emotional stress.

Jimmy is cruel and self-centered, and this could be seen when he refuses to be remorseful for having an affair with Helena. However, he feels disappointed when Alison refuses to see Hugh’s mother on her deathbed. Also, Jimmy refuses to feel pity for Alison after she mourns her miscarriage. He did soften his tone towards her and accepted her back after she was humbled by the miscarriage.


Alison Porter 

Daughter to Colonel Rednerf and Jimmy’s wife, Alison is born into an upper-middle-class family, which causes Jimmy to verbally abuse her. She is aware of the social differences between her and Jimmy, which makes him attack her background but had to hide her feelings to avoid enraging him more. Her parents disapproved of her marriage to Jimmy; this hardened Jimmy’s desire to marry her. 

After three years of marriage with Jimmy, she’s broken down due to Jimmy’s aggressiveness. Despite the abusive nature of the marriage, Alison still confesses to loving Jimmy and tells Helena that Jimmy is her first love. When Helena visited her and saw how harshly Jimmy treated her, Helena called Alison’s father to come to pick his daughter out of the abusive marriage since her persuasion couldn’t make her leave. At the end of the play, Alison returns after months of being away, only to see Jimmy and Helena kissing passionately.


Cliff Lewis 

A welsh friend of Jimmy shares an apartment with him, too. From a working-class home, likewise his friend. Jimmy often makes fun of Cliff’s working-class background. Cliff believes Jimmy keeps him as a friend as a result of that.

Cliff is the only character that perceives what’s happening in the apartment but keeps his head cool. When Helena taunts Jimmy and says she hates him with passion, Cliff notices she craves to have Jimmy and is trying to make that happen by shattering his marriage. While she tricks Alison out and holds onto Jimmy, Cliff falls out with Jimmy and leaves the apartment. 

Cliff is calm and well-cultured, the abilities that enable him to co-live with abusive Jimmy. He maintains a close relationship with Alison throughout the play and protects her from the harsh words of Jimmy.



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Helena Charles

Helena is an adorable woman, an actress, and a friend of Alison. She’s from the upper-middle class, like Alison. Helena told Alison that she was coming to visit her on phone, against Jimmy’s will. Jimmy explodes upon learning about her visit and told Alison to cancel it, but she disagreed. 

Helena visits in the end and develops an affectionate interest in Jimmy, hence begins to use different tactics to stain his marriage. She persuades Alison to stand off from the abusive husband or leave him with the intention of shattering the marriage. While Alison was reluctant to heed her advice, Helena involves Rednerf, Alison’s father. 

Finally, Alison leaves, and she forges a relationship with Jimmy. After months of Alison being away from Jimmy, she returns after miscarrying her baby, only to find Helena kissing passionately with Jimmy. Because of her sense of morality, Helena decides to leave.



Colonel Rednerf 

60-year-old good-looking Rednerf is Alison’s father and a member of the upper-middle-class. He served in the British military in India for forty years and always feels nostalgic about his years there, which he thinks were the best of his life. 

When Alison planned to marry Jimmy, he blindly supported his wife’s stance to foil their relationship. After three years since Jimmy and Alison defied his advice against marrying to marry Jimmy, Helena calls him to come to rescue his daughter from her abusive marriage. When he comes to pick Alison, he admits to having taken a different stance from his wife, which he believes is affecting Alison’s marriage now, and confesses to loving Jimmy.


Mrs. Tanner

Jimmy refers to her as Hugh’s mum. She helped Jimmy in opening his candy stall. Jimmy respects and loves her. Alison thinks Jimmy loves her because Mrs.Tanner is in the same class as him. 

When Jimmy got a call about the worsening health of Hugh’s mum, he prepared to visit her on her deathbed and begged Alison’s accompany, but she turned him down, leaving him disappointed. Jimmy thinks Alison’s refusal to go with him was influenced by class in England. Hugh’s mother is of a working-class background.

Hugh Tanner

Jimmy’s friend. Hugh accommodated Jimmy and Alison in the first months of their marriage. Jimmy regards him as an ally in the fight against classism. However, Jimmy is disappointed and betrayed when Hugh travelled the world without considering his mother.



Jimmy’s first love, who was a decade older than him. Jimmy thinks she possesses the character— passiveness— both Helena and Alison lack.


Share your ideas about the characters in the play – Looking Back in Anger in the comment section below.


Written by Ikechukwu Nweke

Edited  and reviewed by Chinyere Nwosu


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