Look Back in Anger

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The basis of any great dramatic play lies in its devilment of plot or of characters, but in Look Back in Anger, the chief characteristic seems its reliance on action which is based on the use of language in the play. Undoubtedly, the action of the play is mainly psychological and involves necessary use of language. The characters have fluctuating thoughts, hidden emotions and relational bindings which find expression through word, stance or even gestures. In this regard, it has been the opinion of a lot of critics that language itself plays the role of a protagonist in the play. This is evident from the fact that though the characters express themselves through language, language on its part puts across its themes and actions. And most importantly, the only way of knowing characters in the play is through the language as they are embodied through it. many times in the play, the language used is melodramatic and is used, even though crudely, to appeal to the emotions of both the characters and the spectators. As an example one may refer to Alison’s speech towards the end of Act II Scene ii where she starts shouting: “I’m in the fire and I’m burning, and all I want is to die! . . .. . . . .this is what he wanted from me! . . . …….I’m in the mud at last! I’m groveling! I’m crawling! Oh God…..” Such a use of language automatically seems very exaggerated and melodramatic but at the same time it does show the power of language and how it can undermine Alison and be the protagonist itself.

Quotes and Analysis

1. "People like me don't get fat. I've tried to tell you before. We just burn everything up."

Look Back in Anger, 12.

This quote, spoken by Jimmy, is a glimpse into his character and his anger. Though his quote, literally, is meant to convey the kind of physical energy that Jimmy has in his everyday life, on another level the quote is meant to suggest the kind of destruction that Jimmy brings to the lives of those around him. The word "burn" has a double meaning in this way; on the one hand it is meant to represent a burning of physical, bodily energy. On the other hand, it is meant to convey destruction -- how Jimmy's frenetic quest for real life destroys the lives of those to whom he is closest.

2. "If you could have a child, and it would die...if only I could watch you face that."

Look Back in Anger, 37.

This quote, spoken by Jimmy, demonstrates his vicious anger towards Alison. The quote is an example of dramatic irony as well as foreshadowing. It foreshadows future events in the play in which Alison loses her pregnancy, Jimmy's child, to miscarriage. It is dramatic irony in that the audience already knows that Alison is pregnant when Jimmy speaks this line, but he does not realize this fact. Without the suffering of losing something close and important to her, Jimmy sees Alison as an incomplete or unborn person, incapable of true emotion and life.

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"Oh heavens, how I long for a little ordinary human enthusiasm. Just enthusiasm -- that's all. I want to hear a warm, thrilling voice cry out Hallelujah!...Hallelujah! I'm alive!"

Look Back in Anger, 15.

Jimmy is primarily concerned with a way to live a real, enthusiastic, and emotional life. The desire for emotion expresses itself in his anger towards his wife and their domestic existence. This quote is a reference to black gospel religion which Jimmy associates with things such as jazz music (Jimmy also plays the trumpet, a similar reference). This use of a religious phrase should be compared to Jimmy's antagonism towards traditional English Anglicanism, which Jimmy firmly rejects. It should also be noted that most of the play occurs on a Sunday, suggesting that in Jimmy's righteous anger is a modern attempt to find the kind of real life that traditional religion sought to convey for its believers....
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