The church bells symbolize a respectable middle class morality that Jimmy finds oppressive. Helena subscribes to this version of morality, which posits that some things are clearly right, while others are wrong and “sinful.” Jimmy, on the other hand, believes that the rules of respectable society are something to struggle against. In his mind, it is moral to act in allegiance with his oppressed class, and to feel emotions as keenly and intensely as possible. The church bells chime from outside the window at various points in the play, reflecting the fact that these middle class rules are a fact of life in most of the world, and that they often intrude into the apartment, and into Jimmy’s life. He curses and yells when he hears them, reflecting his anger at this system of morality. Alison leaves for church with Helena in the middle of act 2, following Helena back into a middle class world.
Church bells Symbol Timeline in Look Back in Anger
The timeline below shows where the symbol Church bells appears in Look Back in Anger. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, Scene 1
...you…to come with me.” Jimmy meets her gaze, but Alison turns away and stands. The church bells begin to ring. Helena watches. Finally, Alison crosses to pick up the prayer book. “She... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2