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To what extent is Jimmy(TM)s behaviour explained by the time he lived in?

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Introduction

To what extent is Jimmy's behaviour explained by the time he lived in? The play, 'Look Back in Anger' has been described as "an influential expression of the mood of its time" because of its serious, provocative and reflective portrayal of 1950s England. The central character, Jimmy porter, exhibits many of the grievances felt by members of society through his behaviour, which is at times shocking. However, how justified is Jimmy in his 'anger', how far is his behaviour attributable to society at the time? This essay will explore not just Jimmy's behaviour, but also the context in which it is portrayed, to discover whether it reflects the period in question. As the title of the play suggests, Jimmy is a very angry young man, his unprovoked attacks on Alison and his annoyance with the fact that the other characters seem content in their 'delicious sloth' help to convey this to the audience. From these utterances it becomes clear that Jimmy is most upset about what he feels is the inertia of the time. ...read more.

Middle

Jimmy reads the paper, being 'the only one who knows how to treat a paper', referring to his ability to question the assumptions made in them. Jimmy uses an impressive vocabulary: 'sycophantic' and 'pusillanimous', all to the detriment of other characters in the play. Jimmy's intellectual abilities come as a surprise to the audience considering the way he appears to dislike the educated middle classes, indeed, Cliff stands as someone who comes from a similar working class background to Jimmy yet is inferior to him in terms of education. Can context help to explain this discrepancy? The Education Act of 1944 brought new redbrick universities and state grammar schools to the working classes, something that Jimmy obviously benefited from. However, the legislation did not stop people from discriminating against those of working class, perhaps explaining Jimmy's anger towards the establishment and the elite ruling class. Through Jimmy's unconstructive use of his abilities, Osborne conveys the uselessness of these new opportunities for those who really needed to benefit from them. It seems a grave injustice that someone of Jimmy's intelligence should have to work on a sweet stall. ...read more.

Conclusion

This, then, helps to communicate the promiscuity of the time as contraceptives became much more widespread within society. In addition, Jimmy takes a lot of pleasure in past things, describing the great composer Vaughan Williams as 'something strong, something simple, something English', Alison even describes Jimmy as a 'man born out of his time'. However, at the same time Jimmy cannot stand for some aspects of the past. Such contradictions are very important in further understanding the equivocal nature of the period and the fact that it lacked societal unity, both in thought and action. Therefore, the references to the past become just as important as the time, in which Jimmy was living, in conveying to the audience why it is that Jimmy behaves the way he does. To conclude, Jimmy's behaviour can definitely be explained by the time he was living in. Jimmy's hatred of the lethargy of characters in the play reflects the stagnation of the 1950s, which presented Jimmy with the problem of there not being "[Any] brave causes left". The failure of education reforms to end class discrimination is shown through Jimmy's intelligent but cold words, which help to demonstrate the uselessness of education in post-war Britain. ...read more.

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