Look Back in Anger

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Bear and Squirrel Symbol Analysis

Bear and Squirrel Symbol Icon
Alison and Jimmy’s bear and squirrel game gives them a way to access a simple affection for each other that they cannot achieve in normal life. The bear is associated with Jimmy, and the squirrel with Alison. The animals symbolize the fact that social norms and conventions interfere with the love that these two characters have for each other. Their relationship is a site of class and societal conflict, and this means that their love becomes fraught with anger and fighting. When they act like animals, whose only concerns are food, shelter, cleanliness, and sex, they can forget that conflict and feel a simpler version of love for each other. The fact that they keep stuffed animal versions of the bear and squirrel in the apartment reflects a childlike innocence that these characters find it difficult to maintain in their troubled world, but that they still hope for.

Bear and Squirrel Quotes in Look Back in Anger

The Look Back in Anger quotes below all refer to the symbol of Bear and Squirrel. 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 2, Scene 1 Quotes

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.

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Bear and Squirrel Symbol Timeline in Look Back in Anger

The timeline below shows where the symbol Bear and Squirrel 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
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...forming “a jungle of newspapers and weeklies.” Jimmy is smoking a pipe. A tattered stuffed bear and squirrel sit on a chest of drawers at the end of a double bed,... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...a randy little mouse.” He starts to tease Jimmy back, calling him a “horrible old bear.” Cliff grabs Jimmy’s foot, and they begin to fight. Alison watches, “relieved and suddenly full... (full context)
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...threat of a different mood,” but Jimmy goes on to call her “a beautiful, great-eyed squirrel.” Alison “nods brightly, relieved.” Jimmy begins to compare her further to a squirrel, with shiny... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...that he’ll either react well, or Alison will have to leave. Alison points to the bear and squirrel on a dresser, and says that the animals represent her and Jimmy. She... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
...Helena exit. Jimmy “looks about him unbelievingly,” rising to lean against the dresser. The teddy bear is nearby. Jimmy lifts it “gently,” then throws it to the floor, where it makes... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Alison is about the put the squirrel in her suitcase, but then puts it back. “For a few moments, she seems to... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...a door slams downstairs. She looks around the room, and eventually picks up the teddy bear, and lies down on the bed with it. Jimmy enters with a crash, and throws... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Class and Education Theme Icon
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...says “with a kind of mocking, tender irony,” that they’ll go be happy in their bear’s cave and squirrel’s drey. They’ll write songs, and live on honey and nuts, and she’ll... (full context)