Look Back in Anger


John Osborne

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Pipe Symbol Icon
Jimmy’s pipe is another example of an upper class symbol that Jimmy uses instead to reflect his working class status. Pipes call to mind old, educated, university professors. Jimmy’s pipe is a way for him to dominate the scene and assert himself as a rebellious force in the world (and he uses his force largely to rail against upper class norms). His pipe smoke fills the room, and creates a smell that other characters come to associate with him. Alison says in the first act that she has “gotten used” to it, reflecting the way that she adapts her values and sensibilities depending on the context that she is in. Helena later says that she has grown to “like” the smell, reflecting the attraction that she feels to Jimmy, and also the fact that she retains more of a sense of self than Alison does in the same situation—Helena positively likes the smell, while Alison is merely “used” to it. While living with her parents in the third act of the play, the smell of pipe smoke reminds Alison of Jimmy, and soon after, she comes back to him. Once in the apartment, she absentmindedly cleans up the ashes from the pipe, reflecting the fact that she retains her upper class sense of respectability and order, even as she returns from her parents’ home to live in Jimmy’s world. The pipe thus becomes a litmus test of Helena and Alison’s relationship with Jimmy throughout the play.
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Pipe Symbol Timeline in Look Back in Anger

The timeline below shows where the symbol Pipe 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
...them and between them, 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... (full context)
...keys, matches, and a handkerchief from his pocket. Jimmy grabs the matches and lights his pipe. Cliff complains of the smell, but Alison says she’s gotten used to it. Jimmy says... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...an unpremeditated, careless way; she wears an old shirt of Jimmy’s.” Cliff says that Jimmy’s pipe is stinking, and Jimmy says that Cliff stinks. Then he wonders why he spends so... (full context)
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
Jimmy asks if his pipe smoke bothers Helena, and she says that she likes it. Jimmy summarizes the week’s news... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Suffering and Anger vs. Complacency Theme Icon
Disillusionment and Nostalgia Theme Icon
Love and Innocence Theme Icon
...the table pouring tea. Alison sits in an armchair. She bends to pick up Jimmy’s pipe, and drops the ash from it into an ashtray. She notes that he still smokes... (full context)