Look Back in Anger

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Colonel Redfern Character Analysis

Alison’s father, a former colonel in the British army stationed in the English colony of India (back before 1947, when India still was a colony of England). He is “gentle” and “kindly,” but also “brought up to command respect.” After leaving his post in India, “he is often slightly withdrawn and uneasy” because he lives “in a world where his authority has lately become less and less unquestionable.” Jimmy says that the Colonel is stuck in a past version of England, and the Colonel himself agrees with this. When the Colonel comes to help Alison pack to leave Jimmy, he shows himself to be self-aware and incisive, commenting that both he and Alison like to stay neutral and avoid showing emotion, to their detriment.

Colonel Redfern Quotes in Look Back in Anger

The Look Back in Anger quotes below are all either spoken by Colonel Redfern or refer to Colonel Redfern. 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

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.

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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.

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Colonel Redfern Character Timeline in Look Back in Anger

The timeline below shows where the character Colonel Redfern appears in Look Back in Anger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Class and Education Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
...to newspapers. Jimmy summarizes another article that he says was written by a man like Colonel Redfern “casting well-fed glances back to the Edwardian twilight from his comfortable, disenfranchised wilderness.” Then... (full context)
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...says, “I hate to admit it, but I think I can understand how her Daddy [Colonel Redfern] must have felt when he came back from India…the old Edwardian brigade do make... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...returns to his attack on her friends, saying that they’re “militant,” like Alison’s mother and Colonel Redfern, and also “arrogant and full of malice. Or vague.” Alison, he says, is “somewhere... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...“there must be about six different answers.” For one thing, her family, and her father Colonel Redfern in particular, were “unsettled” after returning from India. When Alison met Jimmy at a... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...hard to believe now. They avoided the city registrar because he was a friend of Colonel Redfern’s, and chose a vicar who was less likely to know Alison’s parents. But Colonel... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
Helena tells Alison that she has sent Colonel Redfern a wire, telling him to come pick up his daughter the next day. Alison... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
The scene opens the next evening, with Alison packing her suitcase and Colonel Redfern sitting by. “Brought up to command respect, he is often slightly withdrawn and uneasy... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...her son is away. She says that Jimmy had hoped she would go with him. Colonel Redfern remembers that it was Hugh’s mum who gave Jimmy the sweet-stall, and asks whether... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
The Colonel asks who is looking after the sweet stall, and Alison says that Cliff is. Her... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Alison says that there wasn’t much to say, and the Colonel interprets this to mean that she was “afraid of being disloyal” to Jimmy. Alison laughs... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Alison says that he shouldn’t blame himself, and the Colonel agrees that everyone involved deserves some blame. Yet he says that Jimmy is “honest enough”... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Alison tells the Colonel what Jimmy said about her mother and the worms. The Colonel responds with a mild... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
Alison says that she believes it was for “revenge.” Colonel Redfern looks baffled. Alison confirms that “some people do actually marry for revenge.” Jimmy, she... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Colonel Redfern says that Jimmy might be right—he might be a relic of the Edwardian past.... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
...moments, she seems to be standing on the edge of choice.” Then she turns to Colonel Redfern and begins crying. He tells her that she’s taking a big step, and asks... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
The Colonel says that they should get going—Alison’s mother will be worried, and she’s ill. Helena says... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...crash, and throws his raincoat down. “He is almost giddy with anger.” Jimmy says that Colonel Redfern almost hit him with the car on his way out. It was “fitting,” he... (full context)