Look Back in Anger

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Alison Porter Character Analysis

A woman from an upper class background, and Jimmy’s wife. She is drawn to Jimmy’s energy, but also exhausted by their constant fighting. Jimmy accuses her of being too complacent and lacking “enthusiasm,” and her own father, Colonel Redfern, agrees that she has a tendency towards too much neutrality. She feels stuck between her upper class upbringing and the working class world of her husband. Alison eventually leaves Jimmy, but returns to him later in the play after she loses their child to a miscarriage. This suffering changes her, and causes her to commit more fully to the intense emotion inherent in Jimmy’s world.

Alison Porter Quotes in Look Back in Anger

The Look Back in Anger quotes below are all either spoken by Alison Porter or refer to Alison Porter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Class and Education Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Look Back in Anger published in 1982.
Act 1 Quotes

Oh heavens, how I long for a little ordinary human enthusiasm. Just enthusiasm—that’s all. I want to hear a warm, thrilling voice cry out Hallelujah! Hallelujah! I’m alive! I’ve an idea. Why don’t we have a little game? Let’s pretend that we’re human beings, and that we’re actually alive.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter, Cliff Lewis
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Jimmy isn't a particularly brilliant, likable, or extraordinary person--and yet he likes to claim that he's superior to everyone around, for the simple reason that he's more "alive" than his peers. The genius of Jimmy's pronouncement is that it's impossible to disprove: everybody is alive in the literal sense, so it's never entirely possible to disprove Jimmy's insistence that he's somehow "more" alive than everyone else. Jimmy belittles his wife, Alison, and his friend, Cliff Lewis, by accusing them of being too passive and lifeless; somehow, he claims, they're acting like inanimate beings, blundering through life according to other people's rules. Jimmy condescendingly offers to show his wife and friend how to be alive by teaching them a game--the point being that Jimmy lives according to the truth that "we're actually live," whereas Alison and Cliff can only grasp at real life in a performance.

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I hate to admit it, but I think I can understand how her Daddy must have felt when he came back from India, after all those years away. The old Edwardian brigade do make their brief little world look pretty tempting. All homemade cakes and croquet, bright ideas, bright uniforms…What a romantic picture. Phoney too, of course. It must have rained sometimes. Still, even I regret it somehow, phoney or not. If you’ve no world of your own, it’s rather pleasant to regret the passing of someone else’s.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter, Colonel Redfern
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jimmy looks at a notice for an upcoming concert, at which the music of the famous British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams will be featured. The mention of Vaughan Williams makes Jimmy think of Alison's father, Colonel Redfern, who had previously complained that modern life "isn't what it used to be." Colonel Redfern is unabashedly nostalgic for England's Edwardian age--i..e, the age when England still controlled a huge chunk of the world's people and resources, and the British Empire hadn't yet collapsed upon itself.

Jimmy has previously been hostile to the Colonel's worldview, claiming that nostalgia is a childish, sentimental emotion. Here, however, Jimmy seems to sympathize with the Colonel, and understands his genuine desire to go back to the past, when life was surely better. The passage illustrates the paranoia and self-contradictions of Jimmy's worldview: for Jimmy, there are no rules or prohibitions except "aliveness." Thus, Jimmy can simultaneously believe that nostalgia is an evil, and yet feel nostalgia himself--the rules don't apply to him.

Pusillanimous. Adjective. Wanting of firmness of mind, of small courage, having a little mind, mean spirited, cowardly, timid of mind. From the Latin pusillus, very little, and animus, the mind. That’s my wife! That’s her, isn’t it? Behold the Lady Pusillanimous.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jimmy looks up a word, "pusillanimous," and then defines it for his friend, Cliff. Jimmy uses the definition to allude to his wife, Alison, and her supposed small-mindedness--even though Alison is in the room with them. Further, Jimmy claims that if he were to mispronounce the word, Alison would probably correct him in public.

The passage is an example of how part of Jimmy's anger stems from the fact that he is somewhat insecure about his lower-class origins. In England, speech and pronunciation are crucial to one's success in life, to a degree that many Americans would find unfathomable (as George Bernard Shaw said, "the minute an Englishman opens his mouth he makes some other Englishman despise him"). At the same time, Jimmy uses the definition of this "big word" to hurt his wife, Alison, who has been a calm, passive character so far--i.e., in Jimmy's mind, the definition "pusillanimous."

When you see a woman in front of her bedroom mirror, you realise what a refined sort of butcher she is…Thank God they don’t have many women surgeons! Those primitive hands would have your guts out in no time. Flip! Out it comes, like the powder out of its box. Flop! Back it goes, like the powder puff on the table.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Jimmy continues to berate his wife, even while she's performing the most banal of tasks--here, for instance, Jimmy makes fun of Allson for the way she applies makeup to her face and does the ironing, suggesting that Alison, and all woman for that matter, are incompetent when it comes to using their hands.

Jimmy's tirade is a veiled defense of his own masculinity. Jimmy constantly tries to distinguish himself from weak, fragile women like his wife--his speech reinforces some of the classic female stereotypes (they don't know how to do physical work, they're no good with their hands, they're weak, they could never be surgeons). By distinguishing himself from his wife, Jimmy implicitly tries to make himself a figure of importance--even though it's pretty clear by now that he's not.

I can’t think what it was to feel young, really young. Jimmy said the same thing to me the other day…I suppose it would have been so easy to say “Yes, Darling, I know just what you mean. I know what you’re feeling.” It’s those easy things that seem to be so impossible with us.

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Jimmy Porter
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alison is alone with Cliff, her husband's friend. Alison describes the feelings of loneliness and nostalgia she's often felt. But she also explains that her husband, Jimmy, has felt the same sorts of feelings. Instead of offering her husband comfort, Alison has pretended not to know what Jimmy is talking about. It would be easy for Alison to comfort her husband, but she refuses to do so.

The passage indicates that the toxic relationship between Jimmy and Alison might not be a one-way street: Alison seems to deny Jimmy love in the same way that Jimmy denies her love (though "who started it" remains unclear). The passage reiterates the importance of nostalgia to the characters' lives: they're always thinking about the vanished past, even if they feel guilty for doing so. In the present, the tragedy of "happy couple" is that they're really not so different from each other, but because of failures of communication, they remain constantly at odds and unhappy.

Alison: He actually taunted me about my virginity. He was quite angry about it, as if I had deceived him in some strange way. He seemed to think an untouched woman would defile him.
Cliff: I’ve never heard you talking like this about him. He’d be quite pleased.

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Cliff Lewis (speaker), Jimmy Porter
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

Alison and Jimmy didn't have sex before they were married, despite Alison's family's fears that they had. Indeed, Alison was a virgin before she married Jimmy--a fact that she confesses to Cliff in this scene. Cliff says that Jimmy would be happy to hear Alison talking about him so frankly: such talk would fit his notions of "real talk" and "really living." Alison agrees with Cliff, and yet shows no signs of deciding to talk to Jimmy--the alienation between Alison and her husband continues.

The discussion of Alison's virginity would have been shocking to the play's first audiences--and yet here, the point of the speech is how un-shocking it really is: there's a fundamental incompatibility between Jimmy's notions of sex and Alison's notions of sex, which would go away if only Jimmy and Alison would be frank with each other. But Alison seems too afraid and spiteful, and Jimmy seems like too much of a bully, to have a frank conversation about sex.

There’s hardly a moment when I’m not—watching and wanting you. I’ve got to hit out somehow. Nearly four years of being in the same room with you, night and day, and I still can’t stop my sweat breaking out when I see you doing—something as ordinary as leaning over an ironing board. Trouble is—Trouble is you get used to people.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, we get one of the most complex views of Jimmy's character. Jimmy is a mess of contradictions, especially when it comes to his wife Alison. Jimmy complains that it's easy to get used to things over time--and yet when he's talking about Alison, he insists that he's still highly attracted to her beauty, even after four years of marriage.

Jimmy gets used to people, and yet he can't ever entirely get used to Alison--he still finds her enchantingly lovely. Jimmy both loves and hates Alison: on one hand, he thinks of her as the "light of his life." And yet, on the other hand, Jimmy thinks of Alison as an outlet for his insecurity and self-hatred.

If you could have a child, and it would die. Let it grow, let a recognisable human face emerge from that little mass of indiarubber and wrinkles. Please—if only I could watch you face that. I wonder if you might even become a recognisable human being yourself.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

In this crucial passage, Jimmy takes his contempt for Alison's way of life even further than we've seen up until now. Jimmy tells Alison that he wants Alison to have a child that dies. He thinks that such an experience would make Alison a tougher, more sincere human being--one who would "live fully," as Jimmy does.

The passage is shocking and, as always with Jimmy, contradictory. Jimmy thinks that pain is the only way to achieve "true life," but in order to lead Alison there, he seems to condone the death of their own child. Furthermore, in wanting to cause so much suffering and pain for Alison (a person he professes to love deeply), Jimmy seems to be turning his back on the full range of human emotions: in other words, by focusing so exclusively on pain and suffering as roads to real life, Jimmy neuters his own understanding of what life can be.

In terms of the plot, of course, this passage is also vital because it shows Jimmy essentially "cursing" Alison to her fate. At this point, Alison really is pregnant with their child, though she hasn't told Jimmy yet. And Alison will go on to have a devastating miscarriage, just as Jimmy spitefully wishes for her here.

She’ll go on sleeping and devouring until there’s nothing left of me.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

Jimmy concludes Act I by claiming that Alison is eating him alive. In an uncertain modern-day environment, Jimmy doesn't know what to make of his own life: he's unsure what path to take, who to love, etc. In his frustration, Jimmy takes out his anger on his wife, Alison. And yet Jimmy hypocritically claims that it's Alison who's emasculating him, preventing him from living the life he deserves. Jimmy's comments are clearly self-serving: it's easier for him to be an underachiever and blame Alison than it is for him to try to succeed and fail on his own.

The image of Alison devouring Jimmy alive is important for the rest of the play, because it reinforces the fact that Jimmy thinks of himself as a victim, through and through. Even when he has psychologically abused his wife to the point where she can barely open her mouth Jimmy thinks of himself as the repressed, devoured one.

Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Everything about him seemed to burn, his face, the edges of his hair glistened and seemed to spring off his head, and his eyes were so blue and full of sun. He looked so young and frail, in spite of the tired line of his mouth.

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Jimmy Porter
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alison describes how she met Jimmy Porter years ago. Jimmy was sunburnt and red-skinned, the very embodiment of youth and vitality, with a touch of rebellion, sadness, and violence. In retrospect, it's possible to read Alison's interpretation of Jimmy's appearance as almost demonic--a sign that she should never have married him. But at the time, Alison thought of Jimmy as an ideal suitor: he was both strong and weak, masculine and frail. She thought that by marrying Jimmy, they could help one another equally. Furthermore, Alison seems to have thought of Jimmy as a symbol of rebellion against her upperclass family; Jimmy symbolized everything her stuffy, reserved parents disapproved of.

We could become little furry creatures with little furry brains. Full of dumb, uncomplicated affection for each other…And now, even they are dead, poor little silly animals. They were all love, and no brains.

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Jimmy Porter
Related Symbols: Bear and Squirrel
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Alison describes a game that she used to play with her husband, Jimmy. Alison and Jimmy would pretend to take on the attributes of two animals: Alison would be the squirrel (small, timid, etc.), while Jimmy would be the bear (large, masculine, dangerous). Playing such a game would allow Alison and Jimmy to escape their problems for a little while, and show their love for one another through play and innocent fun.

The passage is interesting because it shows Alison in the throngs of nostalgia: Alison claims that she and Jimmy no longer play the "game" anymore. Actually, Jimmy and Alison do seem to play "bear and squirrel" when they're together, in the sense that Jimmy is loud and aggressive and Alison is meek and quiet. Alison's remark suggests that the game used to be a way for her to escape the pressure of being a human being for a while, and yet her current situation seems more savage and animalistic still. The passage has a sad, rueful tone, as if Alison is pondering her old mistakes, mistakes that led her into a loveless marriage.

One day, when I’m no longer spending my days running a sweet-stall, I may write a book about us all…and it won’t be recollected in tranquility either, picking daffodils with Auntie Wordsworth. It’ll be recollected in fire, and blood. My blood.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter, Cliff Lewis, Helena Charles
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Jimmy is an interesting character because he embraces art and literature, yet sees most traditional literature as being feminized and weak-willed. Here, he tells Alison and Cliff that one day he'll write a book about his experiences, into which he'll pour his own blood and tears. The book, he insists, will be violent and energetic. He contrasts it with the works of the poet William Wordsworth, who wrote about nature, daffodils, and other supposedly "timid" topics. Jimmy sees himself as a potentially great, perhaps Modernist author, and yet he seems not to have the drive or the initiative to write a novel. He's too busy being angry with his friends and his wife.

Oh, don’t try and take his suffering away from him. He’d be lost without it.

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Jimmy Porter
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage--maybe the truest line in the whole play--Alison interrupts Helena as she tries to comfort Jimmy. Helena sees that Jimmy is frustrated and angry with the world, and tries to offer him some encouragement. Alison tells Helena that Jimmy enjoys his own suffering; he's basically a masochist.

Jimmy's love for pain and suffering might seem counterintuitive, and yet it fits with everything we know about him. Jimmy a malcontent: he takes out his rage and hatred on his wife and friends, but never seems to do anything to change his life in any concrete way. Jimmy is so frightened of failure that he'd prefer to be unhappy and blame others for his unhappiness than to shoot for success and potentially fail. Thus, he'd rather blame his wife for emasculating him than try to write a book about his life. For Jimmy, there's a kind of comfort in believing that the world is out to get him, because such a belief absolves Jimmy of any real responsibility for his own suffering (whenever anything bad happens to him, it's Alison's fault, or someone else's).

I rage, and shout my head off, and everyone thinks “poor chap!” or “what an objectionable young man!” But that girl there can twist your arm off with her silence.

Related Characters: Jimmy Porter (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Jimmy tries to find the words to express his feelings. He's full of hatred and rage, but can't explain what, exactly, he finds so hateful. Here, however, Jimmy explains that he can't stand the double-standard in his society. People pity him and condescend to him because he's angry al the time, and (implicitly) because he seems like a working-class figure. And yet Alison's passivity in the face of other people's suffering is accepted as a more "natural" kind of behavior. Jimmy argues that to be silent in the face of other people's suffering (whether those other people are the working classes in general, starving people around the world, etc.) is a truly insane reaction.

The passage is one of the best pieces of evidence for the idea that Osborne, even as he mocks his protagonist, doesn't entirely disagree with him. Jimmy is an abusive man, and yet he seems to understand the problems of the world more clearly than Alison does: he refuses to turn his back on other people's poverty, alienation, etc. The passage is also a great example of why John Osborne was known as one of the "Angry Young Men" of England during the 1960s: his writings used angry, unbalanced protagonists to critique what he saw as the injustices of the modern world.

Where I come from, we’re used to brawling and excitement. Perhaps I even enjoy being in the thick of it. I love these two people very much. And I pity all of us.

Related Characters: Cliff Lewis (speaker), Jimmy Porter, Alison Porter
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Helena tries to understand how Alison and Jimmy's relationship can survive while they're constantly fighting with each other so vehemently. Cliff, who's living in the house as well, explains to Helena that Jimmy and Alison manage to get along in part because they fight so much, not in spite of it. Cliff explains that Helena's confusion about Alison's fighting is the result of her upper-class background: in a working-class family, like the one Cliff grew up in, people fought all the time to solve their problems. While such a way of life might seem violent and unorthodox, it's probably more emotionally honest than the other extreme, the one seen more commonly in upper-class environments; i.e., a way of life in which people never have fights of any kind, but just swallow their anger and resentment.

Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

I think you may take after me a little, my dear. You like to sit on the fence because it’s comfortable and more peaceful.

Related Characters: Colonel Redfern (speaker), Alison Porter
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Osborne gives us a better idea of why Alison is so timid and meek in her interactions with the other characters. Alison visits with her father, Colonel Redfern, who remembers how she came to marry Jimmy. Alison saw herself as rebelling against a corrupt system of society by marrying someone from outside her social station. And yet she didn't entirely commit to her rebellion. Instead of cutting off all ties with the Colonel and the rest of her family, Alison continued to communicate with them, and seemed not to get along well with Jimmy. The Colonel sums up Alison's weakness by claiming that she prefers to sit on the fence, halfway between the the upper-class and the lower-class.

The Colonel's observations are surprisingly frank: he seems to fault his own daughter for not cutting off communication with him. Furthermore, he seems to blame himself for his daughter's inability to commit fully to anything: her weakness was once his weakness. In all, the Colonel is one of the most complicated characters in the novel; like everyone else, he's a biased witness, so we have to take his opinions with a grain of salt, but he gets to the heart of what's wrong with Alison's way of looking at life in a way that no other character, including Jimmy, can.

I always believed that people married each other because they were in love. That always seemed a good enough reason to me. But apparently, that’s too simple for young people nowadays. They have to talk about challenges and revenge. I just can’t believe that love between men and women is really like that.

Related Characters: Colonel Redfern (speaker), Jimmy Porter, Alison Porter
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Colonel Redfern tries to understand what goes on between Alison and jimmy. Alison insists that she continues to love Jimmy, and Jimmy says the same about Alison--and yet from the Colonel's perspective, they just fight all the time, and aren't compatible in the slightest. Alison explains that their fighting is a part of their love: it's because they love one another that they're so good at getting under one another's "skin." Furthermore, Alison's love for Jimmy is partly the result of her desire to rebel against her parents and her own background; love, by itself, is too simple to explain why she's married to Jimmy.

The Colonel's reaction to Alison is fascinating: instead of denouncing her for staying married to an angry man, he throws up his hands and admits he can't understand his daughter. He reminisces about the "good old days," in which people married for love and love alone (pretty strange to hear the elder character in a play talking  about marrying for love as a phenomenon of the past--usually it's the other way around). Colonel Redfern, one could say, is a stand-in for the audience itself (most people who saw this play would have been shocked by the idea of Alison's angry marriage to Jimmy). Redfern doesn't understand the marriage, but he comes to accept it.

You’re hurt because everything is changed. Jimmy is hurt because everything is the same. And neither of you can face it. Something’s gone wrong somewhere, hasn’t it?

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Jimmy Porter, Colonel Redfern
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

Alison, who's usually quiet and noncommittal about her feelings, sums up the relationship between Jimmy and Colonel Redfern succinctly. Jimmy is angry because he sees his world as staying "the same"--nothing is changing for the better for the lower class--while the Colonel is sad because the world has changed so much since he was a young man--Britain is no longer a global power, and the "good old days" of colonialism and Edwardian manners are gone. Both the Colonel and Jimmy blame each other for the world's problems, and yet they're both the world's victims.

Alison's observations show that she's a good observer of human nature, and that, during her long periods of silence, she's listening very closely to her husband and father. Indeed, Jimmy seems furious with life for being static: he feels emasculated and isolated by the sameness and homogeneity of his life. Colonel Redfern, on the other hand, is nostalgic for his youthful days in India--days that he couldn't possibly recreate now that India has fallen out of British control.

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

I don’t want to be neutral, I don’t want to be a saint. I want to be a lost cause. I want to be corrupt and futile!

Related Characters: Alison Porter (speaker), Jimmy Porter
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this climactic passage, Alison finally shows some of the emotion that Jimmy has been craving throughout the play. For the most part, Alison has been shy and closeted, at least around her husband. But here, she shocks everyone, including Jimmy, with a sudden, terrifying emotional outburst. She screams that she has no desire to be neutral and more. Instead, she wants to express her emotions and her visceral humanity, just as Jimmy does. Because Alison has recently had a miscarriage, she now finds the despair and the anger to scream out at the universe. Like Jimmy, she's come to see the world as an unfair, painful place--and just like Jimmy, she wants to strike out against the word, even if she knows that her attempts will always be "futile."

Jimmy has spent the entire play trying to get Alison to show some emotion--i..e, be sincere with him--and now that she's finally shown emotion, Jimmy can barely look at her. (It's characteristic of Jimmy that he gets exactly what he wishes for, and then realizes it's not what he thought it would be.) The passage represents, in short, a moment of catharsis for Jimmy and Alison: a sudden outburst of pain, grief, and fury. While Alison's cathartic outburst might be painful, it's also reparative. Because she's let out her long-repressed emotions, Alison can hopefully come to live her life more honestly now. The main ambiguity of the ending, however, is whether Alison and Jimmy have really changed their lives, or if Alison's outburst is just part of an endless cycle of repression, catharsis, and more repression.

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Alison Porter Character Timeline in Look Back in Anger

The timeline below shows where the character Alison Porter appears in Look Back in Anger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
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Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
...more gentle—Jimmy tends to push people away, while Cliff draws them to him. Jimmy’s wife Alison Porter stands ironing clothes on the left side of the stage, near Cliff. She is... (full context)
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...that they make him “feel ignorant.” He taunts Cliff for not being smarter, then taunts Alison, asking her if the papers make her feel stupid, too, even though she’s not a... (full context)
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Cliff reaches up to grab Alison’s hand (she is still at her ironing board beside him). He says that she should... (full context)
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Letting go of Alison’s hand, Cliff says that he’d been reading a “moving” article by Bishop Bromley, who said... (full context)
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Jimmy asks Alison to make some tea. She looks up at him, and asks if he wants tea.... (full context)
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...same ritual. Reading the papers, drinking tea, ironing…Our youth is slipping away.” When he realizes Alison isn’t listening, he says, “casually,” “damn you, damn both of you, damn them all.” Cliff... (full context)
Cliff grins, looks at Alison, and asks what he should do. She says that he should take his trousers off.... (full context)
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Neither Cliff nor Alison responds to his tirade, even when Jimmy gives Cliff a kick. Jimmy changes the subject,... (full context)
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Jimmy begins to say that he hasn’t felt that enthusiasm since—and Alison interrupts him, saying that it was when he was with his old mistress, Madeline, whom... (full context)
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...not as thrilling as Madeline, is “all right…in his way.” He’s the only one of Alison’s friends that’s worth much, Jimmy says, and then stands to look out the window. Webster... (full context)
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Alison asks Jimmy, “very quietly and earnestly,” not to go on. He turns from the window... (full context)
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...get Jimmy to back off from the tirade, but Jimmy says that he couldn’t provoke Alison anyways, not even by dropping dead. He returns to his attack on her friends, saying... (full context)
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Jimmy turns his attack to Alison’s brother Nigel, saying that he “is just about as vague as you can get without... (full context)
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Alison continues ironing—this is the only sound in the room. “Cliff stares at the floor.” Jimmy... (full context)
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...wife. He calls her “the Lady Pusillanimous,” as if she is “some fleshy Roman matron.” Alison leans against the ironing board, closes her eyes, and says, “God help me, if he... (full context)
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Jimmy picks up a dictionary. He tells Cliff that if he’s pronouncing pusillanimous wrong, Alison will probably correct him publicly. He reads the definition out loud: “wanting of firmness of... (full context)
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Jimmy is watching Alison from across the room. Her “face seems to contort, and it looks as though she... (full context)
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Cliff thanks Alison, and calls her “you beautiful, darling girl.” Then he “puts his arms round her waist,... (full context)
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Cliff returns to the newspapers, and Alison to her ironing. After a while, Jimmy snaps at both of them for making too... (full context)
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...church bells begin to ring outside. Jimmy yells out the window at them to stop. Alison tells him to be quiet—she doesn’t want the landlord, Miss Drury, to come upstairs. Jimmy... (full context)
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...to fight. They fall onto the floor in the center of the stage, near where Alison is ironing. Alison says that it’s getting “more like a zoo every day.” Jimmy pushes... (full context)
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Cliff brings Alison to an armchair, where she sits. He says he’ll go down to the bathroom to... (full context)
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Cliff kneels next to Alison and runs the soap gently over her arm. He says she’s a brave girl. She... (full context)
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Cliff says that Alison shouldn’t give up, and offers to put a bandage on her arm. He goes over... (full context)
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Cliff, his back to Alison, wonders aloud how long he can go on watching the couple “tearing the insides out... (full context)
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Cliff finishes tying Alison’s bandage, and she gets up to fold the ironing board. Cliff begins to ask a... (full context)
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Cliff suggests that Alison tell Jimmy now —“after all, he does love you. You don’t need me to tell... (full context)
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Alison tells Cliff, to his surprise, that she and Jimmy didn’t sleep together before marrying. Once... (full context)
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Alison gets up, holding the folded clothes. She asks Cliff whether he thinks Jimmy is right... (full context)
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Alison asks if she should tell Jimmy about the baby. Cliff puts his arm around her... (full context)
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Cliff says he doesn’t know why the hell Alison married Jimmy, and Jimmy asks if the two of them would have been better off... (full context)
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Cliff says that he thinks Alison is beautiful, and that Jimmy does too, but is “too much of a pig to... (full context)
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Alison goes to look for one in her handbag. Jimmy, “trying to re-establish himself,” begins to... (full context)
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Alison discovers that she doesn’t have any more cigarettes, and Jimmy yells to Cliff (who is... (full context)
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Jimmy stands beside Alison, who is still rummaging in her purse. “She becomes aware of his nearness, and, after... (full context)
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Jimmy says that he can hardly get through a moment without feeling attracted to Alison, and that because of that, “I’ve got to hit out somehow.” Even after four years... (full context)
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Jimmy puts his head against Alison’s stomach, but she is “still on guard a little.” Then he looks up, and they... (full context)
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Alison is worried by “this threat of a different mood,” but Jimmy goes on to call... (full context)
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Jimmy asks why she thinks she’s happy, and Alison says, “everything just seems all right suddenly.” Then she begins to return to the topic... (full context)
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...Helena. Cliff asks who she is, to which Jimmy replies that she is one of Alison’s old friends, and one of Jimmy’s “natural enemies.” He also comments that Cliff is now... (full context)
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As he speaks, Jimmy has been picking through Alison’s handbag. Cliff asks him if that isn’t Alison’s private property, and Jimmy says that it... (full context)
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Jimmy asks Alison what Helena wanted. Alison says that Helena is coming over. Helena is working with an... (full context)
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Jimmy says to Alison that he hopes she will one day learn suffering. He wants something to “wake [her]... (full context)
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Jimmy says, ostensibly to Cliff but also partly to himself and Alison, that he has “never known the great pleasure of lovemaking when I didn’t desire it... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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The act opens two weeks later, in the same apartment. Alison is at the stove pouring boiling water into a teapot. She wears a slip and... (full context)
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Helena is “ the same age as Alison, medium height, carefully and expensively dressed.” She has a “sense of matriarchal authority” that “makes... (full context)
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Alison asks if Helena “managed all right” with the dinner, and Helena says yes. She’s already... (full context)
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Alison comments that Helena has “settled in so easily somehow,” despite not being “used to” the... (full context)
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Helena asks Alison if Jimmy drinks. Alison, “rather startled,” says that he isn’t an alcoholic. There is a... (full context)
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Helena asks if Cliff is in love with Alison. Alison “stops brushing for a moment,” then says that she doesn’t think so. Helena asks... (full context)
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Alison confirms that she and Cliff feel some attraction, but says that it’s not a passionate... (full context)
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Alison continues that her relationship with Cliff is a “fluke.” They get along well because of... (full context)
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Alison says that she met Hugh on her wedding night and disliked him immediately. Jimmy was... (full context)
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Helena asks what they were doing for money at this time, and Alison says that her mother had taken stewardship of Alison’s wealth after the marriage. Instead, Jimmy... (full context)
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Helena says that she can’t understand why Alison acted that way—or why she married Jimmy. Alison says that “there must be about six... (full context)
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Helena brings the conversation back to Hugh. Alison says that her relationship with him only got worse, and that Hugh and Jimmy even... (full context)
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Alison suspects that Hugh’s mum and Jimmy both blame her for the quarrel, and for Hugh’s... (full context)
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Helena asks why Alison hasn’t told Jimmy about the baby, and Alison assures her that it couldn’t be another... (full context)
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Helena grabs Alison’s arm. She says that Alison must fight, or escape—otherwise, Jimmy will kill her. Cliff enters.... (full context)
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Then Jimmy launches into another attack on Alison’s friends, while Cliff and Helena eat their meal and don’t respond. He says that her... (full context)
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...from the perspective of a prostitute turning away a customer named Mildred. He asks if Alison likes it, and she says that she does. Jimmy tells them all the lyrics, which... (full context)
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...for being stuck up, like the Oscar Wilde character Lady Bracknell. Then Jimmy’s “curiosity about Alison’s preparations at the mirror won’t be denied any longer.” He asks if she’s going out,... (full context)
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...lets fly an attack against Helena, saying that this is a cheap trick to win Alison to her side. He turns to Alison, saying that he’s sick to think how much... (full context)
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Jimmy says that he knew from the moment he met Alison’s mother that she would stop at nothing to keep him from her daughter. He compares... (full context)
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Jimmy gives an example of Alison’s mother’s dirty tactics of motherly protection. She jumped to terrible conclusions about Jimmy due to... (full context)
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Jimmy asks Alison if Helena has really won her back. Helena cuts in—“You’ve no right to talk about... (full context)
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Jimmy smiles at Alison, who is still at her dressing table, and “hasn’t broken.” Helena is the only one... (full context)
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...all. Helena says to Jimmy, “you think the world’s treated you pretty badly, don’t you?” Alison cuts in, “Oh don’t try and take his suffering away from him—he’d be lost without... (full context)
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...Helena is still around, given that her play has already finished up. Helena says that Alison asked her to say, and Jimmy asks what they are “plotting.” Jimmy tells Alison that... (full context)
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...a friend of Colonel Redfern’s, and chose a vicar who was less likely to know Alison’s parents. But Colonel Redfern and Alison’s mother found out nonetheless, and came “to watch the... (full context)
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Jimmy asks Alison if she’s going to be swayed by Helena. Her friend, he says, is “a cow.”... (full context)
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...your life.” The group sits silently. Then Helena gets up and says that she and Alison should go to church. Alison nods, and Helena leaves to get her things. (full context)
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Without looking at Alison, Jimmy asks why she lets people do these things to him, when, he says, “I’ve... (full context)
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...get his words out.” “My heart is so full, I feel ill—and she wants peace!” Alison puts on her shoes. Cliff moves from the table to an armchair and looks at... (full context)
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Jimmy says that Alison might want to return to him someday. When that happens, he says, “I want to... (full context)
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Helena asks if Alison is ready to leave, and whether she feels all right. Helena says that she is... (full context)
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Helena tells Alison that she has sent Colonel Redfern a wire, telling him to come pick up his... (full context)
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Alison asks who was on the phone. Helena says it was “Sister somebody.” Alison speculates that... (full context)
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To Alison, Jimmy says that he remembers Hugh’s mum’s reaction to their wedding photo. She rhapsodized over... (full context)
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Alison and Helena exit. Jimmy “looks about him unbelievingly,” rising to lean against the dresser. The... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
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The scene opens the next evening, with Alison packing her suitcase and Colonel Redfern sitting by. “Brought up to command respect, he is... (full context)
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Alison says that Jimmy is seeing Hugh’s mum, because she’s had a stroke and her son... (full context)
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The Colonel asks who is looking after the sweet stall, and Alison says that Cliff is. Her father asks if Cliff lives here too, and Alison says... (full context)
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Alison says that there wasn’t much to say, and the Colonel interprets this to mean that... (full context)
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Alison says that he shouldn’t blame himself, and the Colonel agrees that everyone involved deserves some... (full context)
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Alison tells the Colonel what Jimmy said about her mother and the worms. The Colonel responds... (full context)
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Alison says that she believes it was for “revenge.” Colonel Redfern looks baffled. Alison confirms that... (full context)
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...shone was when that dirty little train steamed out of that crowded, suffocating Indian station.” Alison replies, “you’re hurt because everything is changed. Jimmy is hurt because everything is the same…Something’s... (full context)
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Alison is about the put the squirrel in her suitcase, but then puts it back. “For... (full context)
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The Colonel says that they should get going—Alison’s mother will be worried, and she’s ill. Helena says that she hopes the telegram isn’t... (full context)
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Cliff says that Jimmy will return soon, and asks Alison to wait for him. She refuses, and Helena says that she’ll tell Jimmy what has... (full context)
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...hard day, and wants to eat and drink before he sees Jimmy devastated. He tosses Alison’s letter to Helena, and says “I hope he rams it up your nostrils!” Then he... (full context)
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Jimmy reads Alison’s letter: “I need peace so desperately, and, at the moment, I am willing to sacrifice... (full context)
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Helena says that Jimmy should stop being so selfish, and tells him that Alison is going to have a baby. He doesn’t reply, and she asks if that means... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
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Several months have passed, and it is once again a Sunday. Helena’s belongings have replaced Alison’s in the apartment. Cliff and Jimmy sit in armchairs reading the paper, as they did... (full context)
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...sticking pins into my wax image for years.” Then he says that it must be Alison’s mother. He imagines that she does this with a hatpin, and that it might have... (full context)
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...he’ll tell Cliff to get a move on. Then the door opens, and there is Alison, wearing a raincoat. “Her hair is untidy, and she looks rather ill.” After a pause,... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
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...playing his jazz trumpet across the hall. Helena is standing at the table pouring tea. Alison sits in an armchair. She bends to pick up Jimmy’s pipe, and drops the ash... (full context)
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Alison says that she must be “mad” to show up at the apartment, and apologizes to... (full context)
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Helena says that Alison has “more right” to be there than Helena does. Alison protests, “Helena, don’t bring out... (full context)
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Alison says that she regrets coming here, and that she didn’t intend to break up Helena... (full context)
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Alison says that Helena wrote that she loved Jimmy, and Helena confirms this. Alison says that... (full context)
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...that she has discovered “what is wrong with Jimmy…He was born out of his time.” Alison agrees. Helena says that there’s no place for him in the world now, but that... (full context)
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Helena says that she sees now that it’s “over” between her and Jimmy. Alison’s presence reminds her how wrong the situation is. She says, “he wants one world and... (full context)
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Helena says that seeing Alison at the door made everything come clear to her, and that she “didn’t know about... (full context)
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The trumpet eventually stops, and Helena calls Jimmy to speak with them. Jimmy asks if Alison is still there, and Helena says that he shouldn’t be stupid. Alison is worried that... (full context)
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Alison replies that it was her first loss. Jimmy looks at her, then looks back at... (full context)
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Helena says that she’ll get Alison a hotel room. Jimmy says that he always knew that Helena would eventually leave him... (full context)
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Alison says that she’s sorry, and Jimmy says that she never sent any flowers to Hugh’s... (full context)
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Jimmy asks if Alison remembers the first night they saw each other. He said that she seemed to have... (full context)
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Alison is crying. She yells out, “it doesn’t matter! I was wrong, I was wrong! I... (full context)
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...bright,” so they have to be careful of traps. “Poor squirrels,” he says. “Poor bears,” Alison says, and then, tenderly, “Oh poor, poor, bears.” She embraces him. The curtain falls. (full context)