Jimmy believes that love is pain. He scorns Cliff and Alison’s love for each other, which is a gentle sort of fondness that doesn’t correspond to his own brand of passionate, angry feeling. When Helena decides, suddenly, to leave him at the end of the play, Jimmy reacts with scorn and derision. Love, he says, takes strength and guts. It’s not soft and gentle. To some extent, Jimmy’s definition of love has to do with the class tensions between Jimmy and Alison. Alison tells her father that Jimmy married her out of sense of revenge against the upper classes. In asking her to leave her background, he laid out a challenge for her to rise to, and their passion was partly based on that sense of competition between classes. This subverts a traditional love story—Jimmy’s anger at society overshadowed his feelings for Alison, at least in her eyes.
It’s clear that Jimmy and Alison’s relationship isn’t characterized by much tenderness. However, the two do manage to find some when they play their animal game. Jimmy and Alison as the bear and squirrel are able to express more simple affection for each other, but only in a dehumanized state, when they leave their intellects behind. In the final scene, Jimmy describes their game as a retreat from organized society. They’ll be “together in our bear’s cave, or our squirrel’s drey.” Jimmy and Alison are not able to enjoy love as a simple human pleasure. Their relationship is buffeted by class struggle, anger, and suffering. Only when they remove class markers and withdraw from society in their animal game are they able to reach some level of innocence.
This reflects a broader loss of innocence in a generation of post-war Britons that had seen the hydrogen bomb dropped on Japan and 80 million soldiers and civilians die during World War II. Their parents and grandparents were able to grow up with some measure of peace of mind, but these characters (and the real Britons of their generation) cannot. This affects them even in fundamental parts of their domestic lives, like love and marriage. They have trouble experiencing these things as simple pleasures, because the world surrounding them is so difficult and complex. Only by leaving their society, their human-ness, behind, can they find the innocence to enjoy simple love.
Love and Innocence ThemeTracker
Love and Innocence Quotes in Look Back in Anger
Pusillanimous. Adjective. Wanting of firmness of mind, of small courage, having a little mind, mean spirited, cowardly, timid of mind. From the Latin pusillus, very little, and animus, the mind. That’s my wife! That’s her, isn’t it? Behold the Lady Pusillanimous.
When you see a woman in front of her bedroom mirror, you realise what a refined sort of butcher she is…Thank God they don’t have many women surgeons! Those primitive hands would have your guts out in no time. Flip! Out it comes, like the powder out of its box. Flop! Back it goes, like the powder puff on the table.
I don’t think I’d have the courage to live on my own again—in spite of everything. I’m pretty rough, and pretty ordinary really, and I’d seem worse on my own. And you get fond of people too, worse luck.
I can’t think what it was to feel young, really young. Jimmy said the same thing to me the other day…I suppose it would have been so easy to say “Yes, Darling, I know just what you mean. I know what you’re feeling.” It’s those easy things that seem to be so impossible with us.
Alison: He actually taunted me about my virginity. He was quite angry about it, as if I had deceived him in some strange way. He seemed to think an untouched woman would defile him.
Cliff: I’ve never heard you talking like this about him. He’d be quite pleased.
There’s hardly a moment when I’m not—watching and wanting you. I’ve got to hit out somehow. Nearly four years of being in the same room with you, night and day, and I still can’t stop my sweat breaking out when I see you doing—something as ordinary as leaning over an ironing board. Trouble is—Trouble is you get used to people.
If you could have a child, and it would die. Let it grow, let a recognisable human face emerge from that little mass of indiarubber and wrinkles. Please—if only I could watch you face that. I wonder if you might even become a recognisable human being yourself.
Everything about him seemed to burn, his face, the edges of his hair glistened and seemed to spring off his head, and his eyes were so blue and full of sun. He looked so young and frail, in spite of the tired line of his mouth.
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.
Where I come from, we’re used to brawling and excitement. Perhaps I even enjoy being in the thick of it. I love these two people very much. And I pity all of us.
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.