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.
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 3, Scene 1
Act 3, Scene 2