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Modern Drama : A Complete Handnote for English Hons. 4th Year National University of Bangladesh


The Importance of Being Earnest
by Oscar Wilde


Oscar Fingal O’Fflahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 1854 – 30 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in London in the early 1890s. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for consensual homosexual acts in “one of the first celebrity trials”, imprisonment, and early death from meningitis at age 46.

The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People is a play by Oscar Wilde. First performed on 14 February 1895 at the St James’s Theatre in London, it is a farcical comedy in which the protagonists maintain fictitious personae to escape burdensome social obligations. Working within the social conventions of late Victorian London, the play’s major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage and the resulting satire of Victorian ways. Some contemporary reviews praised the play’s humour and the culmination of Wilde’s artistic career, while others were cautious about its lack of social messages. Its high farce and witty dialogue have helped make The Importance of Being Earnest Wilde’s most enduringly popular play.

দি ইমপোর্টেন্স অব বিয়িং আর্নেস্ট, আ ট্রিভিয়াল কমেডি ফর সিরিয়াস পিপল (ইংরেজি: The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People) হল অস্কার ওয়াইল্ড রচিত নাটক। এটি ১৮৯৫ সালের ১৪ই ফেব্রুয়ারি প্রথম লন্ডনের সেন্ট জেমস্‌স থিয়েটারে মঞ্চস্থ হয়। প্রহসনধর্মী হাস্যরসাত্মক এই নাটকে মুখ্য চরিত্র সামাজিক বাধ্যবাধকতা থেকে মুক্তি পেতে এক ধরনের কাল্পনিক ব্যক্তিত্ব ধারণ করেন। ভিক্টোরীয় যুগের শেষভাগের লন্ডনের সামাজিক রীতিনীতি পটভূমিতে রচিত এই নাটকের মূল বিষয়বস্তু হল বিবাহের মত বিষয়ের তুচ্ছ এবং ভিক্টোরীয় পদ্ধতির প্রহসনধর্মী উপস্থাপন। কিছু সমসাময়িক পর্যালোচনায় এই নাটকের হাস্যরস ও ওয়াইল্ডের শৈল্পিক কর্মজীবনের শীর্ষবিন্দুতে পৌঁছানোর প্রশংসা দেখা যায়, অন্যদিকে বাকিগুলোতে এর সামাজিক বার্তা না থাকার জন্য সমালোচনা দেখা যায়। দি ইমপোর্টেন্স অব বিয়িং আর্নেস্ট-এর উচ্চমাত্রার প্রহসন ও চতুর সংলাপ একে ওয়াইল্ডের দীর্ঘস্থায়ী জনপ্রিয় নাটক হতে সাহায্য করে।





Jack Worthing (Ernest), a young gentleman from the country, in love with Gwendolen Fairfax.

Algernon Moncrieff, a young gentleman from London, the nephew of Lady Bracknell, in love with Cecily Cardew.

Gwendolen Fairfax, a young lady, loved by Jack Worthing.

Lady Augusta Bracknell, a society lady, Gwendolen’s mother.

Cecily Cardew, a young lady, the ward of Jack Worthing.

Miss Prism, Cecily’s governess.

The Reverend Canon Chasuble, the priest of Jack’s parish.

Lane, Algernon’s manservant.

Merriman, the butler of Jack’s country house.



Q.1. In what sense is The Importance of Being Earnest an artificial comedy (or a farcical comedy)?
Comment on the absurdity in Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest

Ans. The Importance of Being Earnest is a modern play but it belongs to the genre of comedy of manners that flourished in England during the Restoration period. This kind of comedy gives us h a picture of artificial society given to immorality, affectation and fashions. However, The Importance of Being Earnest is free from indecency, obscenity or immorality. It is characterized by exaggeration and extravagance both in its plot and dialogue. The keynote of the play is absurdity which turns it into a farce.

Most of the situations in The Importance of Being Earnest are absurd and ludicrous, raising laughter of audience. The central situation of Jack’s being found in a large handbag by Mr. Thomas Cardew in the cloak-room of the Victoria railway station in London is in itself a funny story and so it is farcical. Then we are told that Mr. Cardew named the boy Worthing because at that time he had with him a first-class train ticket to Worthing and later left his grand- daughter Cecily under his care. This was the result of the carelessness of Miss Prism who absent-mindedly put her three-volume novel in the perambulator and the baby in the handbag, which she deposited in the clock-room of Victoria station. Now it is impossible for us to believe that anybody, no matter how absent-minded, can commit a blunder like this. There is nothing absurd about Mr. Thomas Cardew’s discovery of the foundling, but it absurd that he should have named the child Worthing on the grounds that he had a first class railway ticket to Worthing, a seaside resort.

When Jack proposes to Lady Bracknell and sincerely says that he has no parents because he was found in a handbag, the situation is hilarious. Lady Bracknell then advises him “to produce at any rate one parent of either sex”. When Jack expresses his inability to manage that, Lady Bracknell turns down his proposal of marriage to Gwendolen. When Miss Prism gives an account of how she had mistakenly deposited the handbag containing the infant in the cloak- room of Victoria station, Jack jumps to the conclusion that he is the illegitimate son of Miss Prism. He is ready to forgive his mother, for her indiscretion in her youth and forgives her. Here we cannot suppress our hilarious laughter.

Further Cecily is fascinated by the wild reputation that the fictitious Ernest enjoys and his curly hair. The situation is undoubtedly absurd but it gives rise to witty remarks and evokes laughter, but laughter only of the superficial kind. Thus absurd and trivial issues give rise to momentous occasions in the life of London’s high society.

Thus the entire play is light-hearted, full of banter and verbal skirmishes, sarcasm, wit epigrams and humour.




Q.2. Trace the elements of wit and humour.

Ans. The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar wilde’s triumph of comic writing, though it has several improbabilities and absurdity. In fact, the merit of the play lies in the fact that the laughter it gives- rise to is absolutely free from any bitter after thought. The personages are ridiculous but Wilde does not ridicule them-young men about town, rebellious daughters, a clergyman, a prim governess and a glib valet. He makes us laugh at their conduct.

There is hardly any action in The Importance of Being Earnest. The only action that we find in the first act is such developments as Jack Worthing’s visit to Algernon’s flat in London, the arrival of Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen, Jack’s proposal of marriage to Gwendolen and her immediate acceptance, Jack’s decision to change his name to Ernest and Lady Bracknell’s rejection to Jack as her son-in-law after she learns of his unknown parentage.

In the second act, we find the mutual attracting between Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble; Algernon unexpected visit to Jack’s country house in the guise of Ernest, the verbal exchanges between Jack and Algernon, Algernon’s proposal to Cecily who accepts it with amazing alacrity, the misunderstanding between Gwendolen and Cecily.

In the third act, we find Lady Bracknell’s arrival in search of her daughter who has fled from her London home, her cross examination of Cecily before giving her approval to Algernon’s marriage to her, the resolution of the mystery concerning Jack’s birth and the happy- note ending when the three sets of lovers-Jack and Gwendolen, Algernon and Cecily, and Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism-are united in matrimony.

This is the so-called plot in the play. Yet it holds the reader’s as well as the audience’s interest through its wits and humour emanating from the verbal exchanges between several characters. Each of them gives instances of brilliant wit and repartee. It is not laboured, but spontaneous and effortless.

When Jack arrives in London in order to propose marriage to Gwendolen, Algernon says: “I thought you had come up for pleasure ?…….. I call that business………… I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing”. Jack retorts: “I have no doubt about that, dear Algy. The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted”.

And so it goes on till the formidable Lady Bracknell arrives on the scene with her daughter Gwendolen. When she learns that Algernon would be away that evening on the pretext of seeing his constantly ailing friend, Mr. Bunbury, she tells Algernon: “well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or die. This shelly-sallying with the question is absurd”.

She turns down Jack’s proposal of marriage to her daughter Gwendolen.

Thus witty exchanges and repartee keep us interested in the play, rather than its plot or action, and herein lies Oscar Wilde’s triumph as a playwright.




Q.3. Discuss The Importance of Being Earnest as a social satire. [NU. 2014, 2016]

Ans. A satire is a literary form that blends ironic humour and wit with criticism for the purpose of ridiculing follies, vices, foibles, stupidity, etc. in individuals and institutions. The Importance of Being Earnest gives us a satirical picture of the English upper class of the time, although there is a couple of satirical portraits of persons belonging to certain different orders of society, namely those of a clergyman and a governess.

Let us first consider the satirical portrayal of Algernon who is a qpical representative of the English upper class of the time. His -shallowness, irresponsibility, extravagance, vanity and gluttony are the main targets of satire. He belongs to the English aristocracy but because of extravagance, he is always in debt as it is pointed out by Lady Bracknell, he has nothing but his debts to depend upon”.

Jack also represents the upper class but he is much better than Algernon in certain respects. He is a responsible guardian and a serious type of young man. While Algernon is too light-hearted, Jack is too serious-minded. His very solemnity is made to look ridiculous. Cecily opines that her Uncle Jack sometimes looks so serious as to give the impression that he is unwell. His over seriousness may be found in his refusal to go either to the theatre, or to the club, or to empire.

The portrayal of Lady Bracknell is perhaps the most satirical of all. Through her portrayal the playwright exposes to ridicule the foibles, absurdities and vanity of the upper class ladies of his time. Lady Bracknell claims to have a taste for music but she would like her nephew to make the selection of the numbers to be played at her party. Her principal absurdities are her snobbery, class- consciousness, her mercenary outlook on life, her suspicious nature and her domineering temperament.

Next two characters outside the aristocracy are Dr. Chasuble, the clergyman and Miss Prism, the governess. Dr. Chasuble instead of inspiring respect, is subject to ridicule for his pompous manner of speaking, his hypocrisy, his lack of real scholarship and his materialistic attitude to life.

Thus The Importance of Being Earnest satirizes vividly the mannerisms, vices and follies of the England society of the time.




Q.4. How can you assess the role of Jack Worthing in the play The Importance of Being Earnest?

Ans. Jack Worthing or John Worthing is one of the main characters in The Importance of Being Earnest. He has a double identity. In the country, where he has an estate and is in charge of the upbringing of Cecily Cardew, he is the respectable Jack Worthing, a very serious and upright young man of twenty-nine. He makes frequent trips to London, however, where he assumes the mane of Ernest Worthing and pursues a life of pleasure. He is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax, the only daughter of Lady Bracknell and seeks her hand in marriage.

Jack realizes that Gwendolen loves him for what he is not, and determines to be christened. He is nervous of Lady Bracknell to begin with, but stands up well to her cross-examination, even offering to produce the hand-bag as evidence of his birth. After her exit he says that he is sick to death of cleverness; adds that he will kill off his brother Ernest; gives Gwendolen his Hertfordshire address and sees her out.

Jack’s nest appearance is in mourning clothes. Having convinced Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism that his brother Enrest is indeed dead. he is horrified to discover that Algy is impersonating Ernest, as a result of which he is forced by Cecily to shake hands with him. He does his utmost to get rid of Algy quickly, and is then caught up in the mistaken identity with Gowendolen and Cecily, an occasion which produces the painful necessity of his having to speak the truth and admit that his name is John.

Jack is appalled when Algy eats the muffins at the moment of crisis, but when they next see the girls he is foremost in asserting that both of them will be christened ‘Ernest. He adopts a proud tone with Lady Bracknell at her second interrogation, disliking her tone with regard to Cecily. He detests Lady Bracknell’s patronage and snobbery but has the independence and cunning to withhold his consent to the marriage of Cecily and Algernon until his own future with Gwendolen is assured. But before that can happen he has to accept the revelation with regard to his own birth, after believing that Miss Prism is his mother. His place in society is guaranteed when he learns that he is Algy’s brother and that Lady Bracknell is his Aunt Augusta too.

Thus, Jack’s role in the play is very important. He proves to be an excellent guardian to Cecily in adopting a high moral tone so as to exercise a healthy influence on his ward and Cecily is also quite devoted to him. She calls him Uncle Jack. It shows the essential goodness of Jack’s character and upbringing as against Algernon’s flippant attitude, Gwendolen’s immaturity and Lady Bracknell’s obsession with the shallow values of London’s high society.





Waiting fot Godot
By Samuel Beckett

Samuel Barclay Beckett (/ˈbɛkɪt/; 13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989) was an Irish novelist, dramatist, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. His literary and theatrical work features bleak, impersonal and tragicomic experiences of life, often coupled with black comedy and nonsense. His work became increasingly minimalist as his career progressed, involving more aesthetic and linguistic experimentation, with techniques of repetition and self-reference. He is considered one of the last modernist writers, and one of the key figures in what Martin Esslin called the Theatre of the Absurd.

Waiting for Godot (/ˈɡɒdoʊ/ GOD-oh) is a play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), engage in a variety of discussions and encounters while awaiting the titular Godot, who never arrives. Waiting for Godot is Beckett’s translation of his own original French-language play, En attendant Godot, and is subtitled (in English only) “a tragicomedy in two acts”. The original French text was composed between 9 October 1948 and 29 January 1949. The premiere, directed by Roger Blin, was on 5 January 1953 at the Théâtre de Babylone, Paris. The English-language version premiered in London in 1955. In a poll conducted by the British Royal National Theatre in 1998/99, it was voted the “most significant English-language play of the 20th century”.

ওয়েটিং ফর গোডো স্যামুয়েল বেকেটের লেখা একটি অ্যাবসারডিস্ট নাটক। এই নাটকে ভ্লাদিমির এবং এস্ট্রেগন নামের দুইজন চরিত্র আবিরত এবং নিস্ফলভাবে গডো নামের একজন লোকের জন্য অপেক্ষা করে। ১৯৫৩ সালে প্রথম প্রদর্শন থেকে নাটকে গোডোর অনুপস্থিতি এবং আরও অসংখ্য প্রেক্ষিত বিভিন্ন ব্যাখ্যার জন্ম দিয়েছে। এটি “বিংশ শতাব্দীর ইংরেজি ভাষায় সবচেয়ে বেশি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ নাটক” হিসেবে বিদিত হয়। বেকেটের ওয়েটিং ফর গডো এর মূল ফরাসি সংস্করণের নাম হচ্ছে En attendant Godot, এবং এটির ইংরেজি উপশিরোনাম ছিলো “a tragicomedy in two acts”.




One of the two main characters of the play. Estragon calls him Didi, and the boy addresses him as Mr. Albert. He seems to be the more responsible and mature of the two main characters.

The second of the two main characters. Vladimir calls him Gogo. He seems weak and helpless, always looking for Vladimir’s protection. He also has a poor memory, as Vladimir has to remind him in the second act of the events that happened the previous night.

He passes by the spot where Vladimir and Estragon are waiting and provides a diversion. In the second act, he is blind and does not remember meeting Vladimir and Estragon the night before.

Pozzo’s slave, who carries Pozzo’s bags and stool. In Act I, he entertains by dancing and thinking. However, in Act II, he is dumb.

He appears at the end of each act to inform Vladimir that Godot will not be coming that night. In the second act, he insists that he was not there the previous night.

The man for whom Vladimir and Estragon wait unendingly. Godot never appears in the play. His name and character are often thought to refer to God.






Q.5. Consider/Justify Waiting for Godot as an Absurd Drama. [NU. 2007, 2013]
What is an absurd drama? Evaluate Waiting for Godot as a specimen? [NU. 2013]

Ans. The “Theatre of the Absurd’ is associated with the names of Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, and Arthur Adamov. But Beckett’s contribution to this particular genre allows us to refer to him as the grand master or father of the genre. The absurd drama grew out of a sense of metaphysical anguish at the absurdity of the human condition in the universe. The absurd dramatists take things rationally and not romantically. It is a drama without a traditional plot, story or division into acts and scenes. It has fewest possible characters. In this type of drama dialogues are very short and crisp. The playwright tries to communicate the meaninglessness of life through dialogues.

The absurd dramatists are all concerned with the failure of communication in modern society which leaves man alienated. The characters in an absurd drama are insubstantial. They become significant for the symbols they represent. Things are not explained; they are merely hinted at or suggested. Waiting for Godot of Samuel Beckett is an absurd play. This drama depicts an absolute negation of human existence. It lacks action and proper plot, and the characters are tied together by a fear of being left entirely alone. We get the refusal impression that man is totally lost in a disintegrating society. We find in this drama two tramps conversing in repetitive, strangely fragmented dialogue that bears an illusory, haunting effect, while they are waiting for Godot, a vague, never defined being who will bring them some communication about-what? Salvation? Death? An impetus for living? A reason for dying? No one knows, and the safest thing to say is that the two are probably waiting for someone or something which will give them an impetus to continue living or at least something which will give meaning and direction to their lives.

As Beckett himself says clearly, those who search for meaning, will find it no quicker than those who sit and wait. The meaning about life that these tramps hope for is never stated precisely.

The audience leave the theatre with the knowledge that these tramps are strangely tied to one another. Even though they quarrel and fight, and even though they have exhausted all conversation, they are bound to each other. The second act is repetitive and almost identical – the loneliness and weakness in each calls out to the other, and they are held by a mystical bond of interdependence. The other two characters, Pozzo and Lucky, are on a journey without any apparent goal and are symbolically tied together. One talks, the other says nothing. The waiting of Vladimir and Estragon and the journeying of Pozzo and Lucky offer themselves as contrasts to various activities in the modern world-all of which lead to no fruitful end. Therefore each pair is hopelessly alienated from the other.

To sum up, Waiting for Godot presents a critique of modern society by showing the total collapse of communication, of man’s being forced to conform to a world of mediocrity where no action is meaningful.




Q.6. In what ways do Lucky and Pozzo contribute to the thematic structure of the play Waiting for Godot? [DU. 1995, NU. 2000, 2007]
Waiting for Godot. Show Waiting for Godot as a critique (criticism) of society.

Ans. The clash between man and society, the exploited and the exploiter in the modern world is revealed through the characters of Pozzo and Lucky in Waiting for Godot. They are interdependent. Together they make a functioning organisation from which the two tramps (Vladimir and Estragon) are excluded. Pozzo cannot move forward, sit down to eat or get up. Lucky cannot move either excep in response to Pozzo’s shouted orders and whip cracks.

Pozzo and Lucky build up a society which corresponds indifferently to any division between the haves and the have-nots Pozzo owns and commands, Lucky produces and obeys. He is the beast of burden and the artist and intellectual. In the past he has taught Pozzo all he knew of beauty, grace, truth of the first water. He can still, manage a tottering dance to entertain them all. He can still at a word of command and jerk of the rope, be made to think-so long as he is wearing his hat. And, like the professional intellectual in any organised society, his thinking leads by its own momentum to conclusions so discomforting and so near the bone that the others jump on him and try to shut his mouth. This is the effect of Lucky’s breathlessly spoken and chaotic tirade. It ends in a seeming incoherence which is nevertheless dismally and intolerably clear.

It would be a mistake to think that Lucky is silenced because the listeners find his torrent of words meaningless and boring. At some deeper level, Lucky’s words raise uncomfortable ideas and suggestions. None of the listeners, Pozzo least of all, is prepared to face hard truths towards which Lucky’s ramble is inexorably driving Deprived of his hat, his thinking stops finally, unfinished: when he and his master appear in Act II, the physical run-down is fast catching up with the mental rundown. Lucky is now dumb and Pozzo blind. They fall flat on their faces and are unable to get up without help. Society, so far as they may be taken to represent it, is near to the point when it ceases to function altogether.

It is possible to treat Pozzo and Lucky as representatives of the ordinary world from which the two tramps are excluded. Pozzo and Lucky create a metaphor of society, not as it is but as the tramps might see it, with the social structure, reduced to an essential distinction between master and slave. Pozzo appears all powerful, dominating the stage by his gestures and his inflated language. By virtue of his capacity to enjoy sensual delights and wealth, he reminds us of a feudal lord, self-consciously magnanimous in his disposal of time and charity.

To sum up, like Didi and Gogo, Pozzo and Lucky may also be seen as parts of a divided self. Pozzo’s contemptuous suppression o Lucky reminds us of the materialistic tendency of man rejecting and suppressing his spiritual and cultural heritage.




Q.7. What does “Waiting” signify in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot? Discuss. [NU. 2015]

Who is Godot? What purpose does he serve in Beckett’s play? [NU. 2016]

Ans. Godot is one of the riddles of Beckett’s play called Waiting for Godot. Neither the author nor the critics do know exactly who Godot is. The audiences are only left guessing about him. When Beckett was asked who or what was meant by ‘Godot’, he replied, “If I know, I would have said so in the play”. By such a statement, we should not, however, conclude that Beckett actually did not know about Godot. He wanted his readers and critics to interpret ‘Godot’ in various ways suitable to them. Thus there is a variety of interpretations of ‘Godot’.

To the two tramps, Godot represents peace, rest from waiting, a sense of having arrived in a place that provides shelter and comfort. His coming means that they will no longer be tramps, homeless wanderers, but will have arrived home. They wait for him even though his coming is by no means certain.

Although Godot fails to appear in the play, he is as real character as any of those whom we actually very much exists for the tramps, and he directs the course of the evening for them. The tramps need Godot, to give a meaning to their universe. They depend on his arrival. So long as Godot does not come he does not come at all), everything that happens is only provisional. Indeed Godot dominates the play even though he does not appear at all. Although he is, at best, a dimly remembered acquaintance, a general image of Godot does emerge in the play; so the two are able to form at least a vague picture of him in our minds.

We learn from the conversation of the tramps that Godot lives in the capitalistic world of “family”, “agents”, “correspondents” and a “bank account”. The tramps identify him with power and authority. To the boy who brings his message, Godot has a white beard and his life is occupied by his mastery over the sheep and the goats. Godot favours this boy who is a goat-boy but beats the boy’s brother who is a shepherd. The two tramps feel uneasy about Godot. When the time comes to meet him, they will have to approach him “on their hands and knees,” and if they stopped waiting for him he would punish them. Thus Godot has several traits in common with the image of God as depicted in the Old and the New Testament.

However, several critics advise the reader not to bother too much to know about Godot. The play is about ‘waiting’ and not about ‘Godot’. If so, who is this waiting for? It is for Godot. Perhaps Godot means only something for which one waits vainly, some promise that remains unfulfilled, some hope that does not materialise.




Q.8. As it possible to see Vladimir and Estragon together an Everyman in a world without meaning? Give reasons for your answer. (DU. 1991)
In what way do Vladimir and Estragon illustrate the main theme of the play Waiting for Godot?

Ans. The two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, who are by nature anti-heroes, constitute the main figures in the play, Waiting for Godot. Of these two Estragon appears to be a cowardly person who suffers from imaginary fears, and so he needs the care and help of his friend, Vladimir who is more intelligent than he. But Vladimir feels himself helpless and compelled indefinitely to wait for Godot who is likely to bring about a change in their present situation.

Thus the play’s central theme “waiting” is illustrated by the characters of Vladimir and Estragon. The ordeal they face is experienced by almost every human being in the world. Like other human beings they suffer from ignorance, helplessness, impotence and boredom. They do not have any idea about Godot, nor do they know what would happen if they stopped waiting for Godot. Being ignorant they are physically unfit for any activity. This makes them helpless, impotent and bored, and actually they find it very difficult to pass time. That is why they take recourse to various devices for passing time but each of their attempts becomes futile.

The main problem of the tramps is how to pass the time. When they finish talking of one thing, they have to think of something else. When they stop one meaningless activity, they devise the other. The dialogue is also maintained, even though there is nothing to say. Nothingness is what these tramps are fighting against, and nothingness is the reason why they keep talking. Thus the conditions of these two tramps reflect the condition of mankind. Their hope that Godot will come remains unfulfilled and this lends the play its serious and tragic quality.

The relationship of Vladimir and Estragon gives a contrast to that of Lucky and Pozzo. The Lucky-Pozzo relationship symbolizes master-slave relationship but Vladimir and Estragon are related to each other by natural ties calling each other childish names, “Gogo” and “Didi”. Gogo (Estragon) symbolically is the Unconscious Mind, the ID, that part of the psyche which is related more to instinctive, irrational, primitive, forces in human personality. Didi (Vladimir) symbolically is the Conscious Mind, the Ego, that part of the psyche which is rational, verbal, social and interested in administering the entire personality. He is more committed to the rational side of man’s mature.

Thus Gogo and Didi are complementary to each and this explains why Didi and Gogo cannot separate once and for all. Like “mind” and “body”, no matter how incompatible they may be, they have to stick to each other, some how.



The Caretaker
By Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter CH CBE (/ˈpɪntər/; 10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008) was a British playwright, screenwriter, director and actor. A Nobel Prize winner, Pinter was one of the most influential modern British dramatists with a writing career that spanned more than 50 years. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Homecoming (1964) and Betrayal (1978), each of which he adapted for the screen. His screenplay adaptations of others’ works include The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1971), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), The Trial (1993) and Sleuth (2007). He also directed or acted in radio, stage, television and film productions of his own and others’ works.

The Caretaker is a drama in three acts by Harold Pinter. Although it was the sixth of his major works for stage and television, this psychological study of the confluence of power, allegiance, innocence, and corruption among two brothers and a tramp, became Pinter’s first significant commercial success. It premiered at the Arts Theatre Club in London’s West End on 27 April 1960 and transferred to the Duchess Theatre the following month, where it ran for 444 performances before departing London for Broadway. In 1963, a film version of the play based on Pinter’s unpublished screenplay was directed by Clive Donner. The movie starred Alan Bates as Mick and Donald Pleasence as Davies in their original stage roles, while Robert Shaw replaced Peter Woodthorpe as Aston. First published by both Encore Publishing and Eyre Methuen in 1960, The Caretaker remains one of Pinter’s most celebrated and oft-performed plays.

দ্য কেয়ারটেকার হ্যারল্ড পিন্টারের তিন দৃশ্যের একটি নাটক। যদিও এটি মঞ্চ এবং টেলিভিশনের জন্য তার প্রধান কাজগুলির মধ্যে ষষ্ঠ ছিল, তবে দুই ভাই এবং একজন ট্র্যাম্পের মধ্যে ক্ষমতা, আনুগত্য, নির্দোষতা এবং দুর্নীতির সঙ্গমের এই মনস্তাত্ত্বিক অধ্যয়নটি পিন্টারের প্রথম উল্লেখযোগ্য বাণিজ্যিক সাফল্য হয়ে ওঠে। এটি 27 এপ্রিল 1960-এ লন্ডনের ওয়েস্ট এন্ডের আর্টস থিয়েটার ক্লাবে প্রিমিয়ার হয় এবং পরের মাসে ডাচেস থিয়েটারে স্থানান্তরিত হয়, যেখানে ব্রডওয়ের উদ্দেশ্যে লন্ডন ত্যাগ করার আগে এটি 444টি পারফরম্যান্সের জন্য চলে। 1963 সালে, পিন্টারের অপ্রকাশিত চিত্রনাট্যের উপর ভিত্তি করে ক্লাইভ ডোনার দ্বারা পরিচালিত নাটকটির একটি চলচ্চিত্র সংস্করণ। মুভিটিতে অ্যালান বেটস মিক চরিত্রে এবং ডোনাল্ড প্লিজেন্স ডেভিস চরিত্রে তাদের মূল মঞ্চের ভূমিকায় অভিনয় করেছিলেন, যেখানে রবার্ট শ পিটার উডথর্পের পরিবর্তে অ্যাস্টন চরিত্রে অভিনয় করেছিলেন। 1960 সালে এনকোর পাবলিশিং এবং আইরে মেথুয়েন উভয়ের দ্বারা প্রথম প্রকাশিত, দ্য কেয়ারটেকার পিন্টারের সবচেয়ে বিখ্যাত এবং সর্বাধিক-সম্পাদিত নাটকগুলির মধ্যে একটি।


Davies is an old, homeless man who is prejudiced against other races and is a guest at Mick’s home. He is dishonest and complains incessantly.

Aston is a man in his early 30s who lives in his brother Mick’s house. He had shock treatments in his teens for hallucinations.

Mick is Aston’s younger brother and a tradesman. He allows Aston to live in his home and take care of it.




Q.9. Justify the title of The Caretaker. [N.U. 2019)

Ans. The Caretaker is the most popular play of Harold Pinter and certainly one of the 20th century’s most notable works of the stage. The Caretaker in the play is Davies but the idea of a ‘caretaker’ can be seen on several levels.

Davies is an itinerant and a tramp. He involves himself in a fight at his cafe job. He is bad, confident, arrogant and full of himself. He has a martyr complex as he believes that everyone else, specially other races, is trying to get him. His papers have been at Sidcup for a long time. So, his identity is questionable. After Davies’ fight at his cafe job, Aston and Mick offer him the job of a caretaker for their house. There is no indication in the play regarding the reason of the two brothers for selecting the same person as the caretaker. Though it is assumed that the brothers lack communication with each other and so they offered the same person for job, Pinter gives no exact information about it. One of the brothers is suffering from neurosis caused by electric shock treatment and another appears to be in aggressive dominating mode of behaviour which creates troubles on the way of their communication yet, the brothers are inextricably connected with each other through their ownership of the house. As they live in a same house but lack communication, they need a caretaker for the development of the house. The encounter of the two brothers with Davies and his job as the caretaker forms the main interest of the play. So, the title is just and appropriate.

Some other incidents in the play can be connected with the title of the play. After Aston’s help to Davies for escaping from a brawl and to bring him home, Aston offers Davies to work as a caretaker. However, in reality Mick owns the building, not Aston. So, his suggestion was unrealistic. Mick, however functions as the caretaker as he is more responsible brother of the two. He takes care of Aston who has been hospitalized for his mental illness. Moreover, the title can also refer to, “to take care of”.

The title of the drama, The Caretaker generally refers to the caretaker Davies who is the caretaker of Aston and Mick. But some other aspects of the drama can also be related with the title.




Q.10. How is the harmonious relationship between Aston affected by the outsider Davies? Discuss.

Ans. Mick and Aston are brothers and they live in the same house. Though they do not talk to each other a lot, they are seen to have affection for each other. Pinter shows real human relationship through Aston and Mick in his play, The Caretaker.

Mike seems to be a riddle for the audience of the play. He is unpredictable and talks very less. He is in his late twenties, a few years younger than Aston. Aston is generous. His generousity is seen when he rescues Davies from the cafe. He is also a practical man. Although he is kind, he finally determines to ask Davies to leave.

The two brothers however select the same person, Davies as the caretaker. One of the brothers is suffering from neurosis caused by electric shock treatment and another appears to be in aggressive dominating mode of behaviour which creates troubles on their way of communication. Pinter shows a testament to the fact that there is still a possibility for modern man to retain ties to other members of humanity through the relationship of Mick and Aston. The bond of Aston and Mick is deeper than language. Though verba! communication does not work for them, their gestures, smiles and mutual understanding surpass talking. Mick is an unpredictable person who often gets frustrated with his situation but he never compromises in taking care of his brother, Aston. He wants to make Aston feel comfortable at any cost and make his own decisions. Aston also loves Mick a lot. He is clearly grateful for Mick’s love and ability to stay and work in the room. Their relationship is so strange that it may seem foreign to the audience but it does not lack in affection. Another important fact is that, the building is owned by Mick. So, the relationship of Aston and Mick is not harmonious because they have to stay together, it is because of the love they have for each other. They are not seen to share their problems with each other. But they support each other and show affection to each other. Being a younger brother Mick takes care of Aston and Aston is so grateful for this. This harmonious relationship is hardly seen in present world where the hunger of power prevails in every man.

The brothers, Mick and Aston are inextricable connected to each other and affectionate towards each other.




Q.11. How does The Caretaker mirror the contemporary society? [NU. 2013]

Ans. The Caretaker appears to be a critique of society not in a broad sense but in its limited aspects. That is a number of aspects of society appear to come under criticism in the play. In their different ways both Davies and Aston are victims of society. Davies cannot cope with its complexity and Aston has a damaged mentality but society makes no attempt to help them. Davies seems to be doomed to perpetual loneliness, while Aston, also lonely, relies on the unpredictable companionship of his brother. Both the characters lack fulfilment.

Davies is a man rejected by society because he does not have his ‘papers’ without the documentary evidence by which society labels and categorises its members, he is a lost case. The individual is not recognised by society. It recognises only a name and number on piece of paper, and without these papers the individual does not exist. So Davies is condemned to wander rootless and unwanted, terrified by vague fears of persecution. He does not know the technical terms mentioned by Mick, the references to house owning and purchase, insurance, and banking, bonus schemes, etc but society gives importance to the knowledge of such things, possessed by its members. Thus without papers, Davies is a man without identity.

Aston is also a victim of society, but his case is different. His operation may be interpreted as society’s retribution, and a symbol of the fear in which it holds the person who is a potential threat to it. Any such threat must be cruelly and immediately destroyed, in this case by taking away Aston’s ability to think.

Racial prejudice is also criticised in The Caretaker through the character of Davies, and is revealed as the greatest of follies. Davies’s hatred of coloured people is simply a cover for his own deficiencies, and his fear of them is irrational. Racial prejudice allows Davies to blame others for what is actually his own fault.

Further Mick’s dream of a “penthouse” flat is also an implied criticism of society. Mick’s greatest aim in life seems to be to bring the house up to the standards that modern society finds desirable. His plan of the decoration of the house will change its appearance but its basic structure will remain the same as will the people inside it. What Mick wants is to coat the surface of the house, but go no deeper. Such an aim is made to appear trivial, false value in a society.

To sum up, The Caretaker is not wholly a social criticism. Of course, it has an element of social criticism in it, but this is overshadowed by other themes such as loneliness, isolation, communication, identity, dreams and illusions, etc.




Q.12. Discuss the theme of violence and menace in The Caretaker.  [NU. 2013, 2015]

Ans. The theme of violence and menace is always present in Pinter’s earlier’ plays and The Caretaker is no exception in this respect. In a play of Pinter violence and menace lurk just below the surface. Mick, for example, is a character who finds pleasure i frightening others. His movements are swift and silent but he is -unpredictable in his behaviour. He threatens Davies with physical violence at first and then poses to more subtle but very unsettling exhibitions of verbal menace Davies is never quite sure where he stands with him.

On the other side of the coin Davies presents a menace to Mick, a threat to his relationship with Aston. After all, it is Aston who invited Davies in. Although Mick complains to Davies about Aston being lazy, at the end the bond between the two brothers is shown to be stronger than that between either of them, and David, the outsider.

Violence and menace also loom large in Aston’s life. Unlike Mick he is always the victim and never the perpetrator. His description of the pincers being put on his skull in the hospital is very shocking. because generally we believe hospital to be a place that heals pain rather than causing it.

The most apparent source of menace is Mick. Davies is not only the victim of physical assault but is often brutally reminded by Mick of an ordered social world to which he does not belong. Then Mick’s remarks about references, solicitors, contracts, personal medical attendants, etc. expose Davies’s position in a world where he has no identity.

In his reaction to all these Davies becomes violent. We see early in Act One of the play, he promises to revenge himself upon the Scotsman who offended him. On two occasions in the play, he draws knife, firstly on Mick in Act Two, and then on Aston in Act Three.

Furthermore, we see that while Mick causes menace to Davies, he himself is frightened of losing his brother to Davies. Aston cannot forget his experiences in the hospital, and his silences can be menacing once the audience know that they spring from a character whose mind has been affected and whose responses are not as predictable as those of an ordinary person. The story of Aston being taken away to hospital against his wishes and tortured there into conformity suggests a hostile outside world waiting to pounce on those whom if suspects to be oppositions.

Thus the theme of menace and violence is traceable in the behaviour and actions of the characters in The Caretaker.




Q.13. Describe the theme of isolation in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker. [NU. 2014]

Ans. Isolation or loneliness is one of the themes of The Caretaker, and it is a theme which is expressed mainly through the characters of Davies and Aston. Davies is alone when Aston rescues him from the brawl at the café, and after a brief interlude he is left alone again at the end of the play.

One of the sad ironies of the play is that Davies realises his isolation and how much the companionship of the house has meant to him only when it is too late, and he has destroyed the chance of ending that isolation. He says to Aston:

“You been a good friend to me. You took me in.
You took me in, you didn’t ask me questions,
You gave me a bed, you been a mate to me.”

Davies is an outcast, a vagrant, someone cut off from society. We can understand that his isolation is a terrible thing. Yet Pinter’s double-edged vision means that the audience are not presented simply with a character deserving their sympathy. They are shown clearly that at least some of this isolation is self-imposed. Davies is aggressive, defiant, and instable. He is embittered, full of racial prejudice, almost completely selfish, and lacking any sense of loyalty and gratitude. On more practical level, he does, ‘stink, and he keeps Aston awake with his groaning and noise at night. In short, he is a thoroughly unpleasant person. The result is a complex reaction, Whereby pity is mingled with an awareness that Davies’s isolation is inevitable.

Aston’s isolation is a different case. He does not like to go into the midst of people and talk to them. He always tries to avoid places like café. His offer to Davies of a room and a job, and his kindness towards him, suggest a man desperate for human companionship, as isolated and lonely in his way as Davies is in his. Yet Aston’s isolation is not as simple as that of Davies, and springs from a different cause. Davies trusts none, and turns on those who try to help him, as when he tries to join Mick in an alliance against Aston. By rejecting him society, he does no more than pay him back in his own coin. But Aston’s fault seems to have been exactly the opposite; he seems to have trusted people too much. He committed the same mistake earlier in the factory, and his reward for this trust was to be betrayed by his mother, and be forced to undergo a loathsome operation on his brain. He trusted too much, Davies not at all, but the result is the same for both-isolation and loneliness.

The saddest irony of all is that although both the characters need the companionship that is at least present in potential in their relationship, they are unable to realise it. Thus, Pinter wants to say that human beings are destined to be lonely. The more they cry out for an end to this, the more its certainty is assured. There is, of course, one major difference between the two characters: Davies is completely alone, but Aston with his brother Mick is a relationship that seems indissoluble. Yet there are doubts on this type of relationship the one based on family, by the treachery’ of Aston’s mother, the hints, that Mick might also have betrayed Aston in allowing the operation to proceed and his apparent whiteness in Act III to leave Aston to his own devices.

Thus, The Caretaker presents loneliness as one of the horrors of modern life.




Q.14. How far is The Caretaker an absurd drama? Illustrate. [NU. 2015]

Ans. Harold Pinter is often linked with the so-called ‘New Wave’ of the British dramatists who came to prominence after 1956. These young dramatists are John Osborne, Arnold Wesker and John Arden. Pinter comes from a working-class background and started to write plays in the mid-1950s. It is probable that Pinter came under the influence of the writers of the absurd drama like Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco. Many of these dramatists present their audiences with characters stripped of all non-essentials such as decent clothes, employment, a routine of family life, in an attempt to reduce man to his basic nature. According to them, man is a hollow shell and life has no meaning. Seeing in this light, man’s life is absurd because it is totally without purpose.

This theme need not necessarily be gloomy, as the dramatist’s point is often that life is only meaningless because its basic nature is not understood. If human beings could only face up to the fact that they were alone in the universe with no divine purpose to their lives, then a realistic mode of living could be thought out. However, it is true to say that most of the absurd dramatists show their audience the meaninglessness of life, but give little idea of there being any hope for a new life.

The absurd dramatists believed that life was not rational; that it did not follow any laws or logical pattern. They were revolutionary in the sense that they transferred this irrationality to the stage. Their plays often have no plot as such, make a nonsense of chronology, and contain obscure or unexplained incidents. Plays of this type were a great shock to audiences when they were first performed. They obeyed none of the laws of conventional drama, and because absurdity is amusing, the plays were frequently very comic. Nor were these plays about something, in the sense of having a specific moral to them. Instead they were capable of widely differing interpretations.

Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot has been seen as a play about religion, as a criticism of capitalism, and a play about German- occupied France in the Second World War, to name but a few views.

The similarities between this style of drama and Pinter’s plays such as The Caretaker are clear. The Caretaker is a comic play. It leaves the audiences confused about the origins of characters and the truth of what they say; it shows behaviour that can appear absurd and pointless, and are open to many different interrelations.

The differences are also there in the sense that Pinter’s plays are more tightly constructed, psychologically more probing, and closer to real life in what they portray. However, Pinter has admitted that Beckett was a major influence on his writing, and no student of Beckett can avoid reading Waiting for Godot.

However, Pinter is no mere disciple of Beckett. His plays have their own distinctive “voice” and method. Three examples will serve to show this: first Pinter’s characters and situations, although, strange at first sight, are more psychologically realistic than Beckett’s are; secondly, he is more concerned than Beckett to show that menace exists even in the most domestic of context; thirdly, he is less concerned with abstract philosophical issues than Beckett is.




Look Back in Anger
By John Osborne

John James Osborne (12 December 1929 – 24 December 1994) was an English playwright, screenwriter and actor. Known for his prose that criticized established social and political norms. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger forever changed English theatre. Osborne was notorious for his violent language. Not only on behalf of his political causes he supported but also against his own family, including his wives and children. Osborne was one of the first writers to address Britain’s purpose in the post-imperial age.

Look Back in Anger (1956) is a realist play written by John Osborne. It focuses on the life and marital struggles of an intelligent and educated but disaffected young man of working-class origin, Jimmy Porter, and his equally competent yet impassive upper-middle-class wife Alison. The supporting characters include Cliff Lewis, an amiable Welsh lodger who attempts to keep the peace; and Helena Charles, Alison’s snobbish friend.

লুক ব্যাক ইন অ্যাঙ্গার (1956) জন অসবোর্নের লেখা একটি বাস্তববাদী নাটক। এটি একটি বুদ্ধিমান এবং শিক্ষিত কিন্তু অসন্তুষ্ট শ্রমজীবী ​​বংশোদ্ভূত যুবক, জিমি পোর্টার এবং তার সমানভাবে সক্ষম অথচ আবেগহীন উচ্চ-মধ্যবিত্ত স্ত্রী অ্যালিসনের জীবন এবং বৈবাহিক সংগ্রামের উপর আলোকপাত করে। সহায়ক চরিত্রগুলির মধ্যে রয়েছে ক্লিফ লুইস, একজন বন্ধুত্বপূর্ণ ওয়েলশ লজার যিনি শান্তি বজায় রাখার চেষ্টা করেন; এবং হেলেনা চার্লস, অ্যালিসনের স্নোবিশ বন্ধু।

Major Characters:

Jimmy Porter
Jimmy Porter is a 25-year-old educated man who runs a sweets stall. He is married to Alison Porter and is best friends with Cliff Lewis.

Alison Porter
Alison Porter is an unhappy young woman married to Jimmy Porter. She is estranged from her upper-class family because she married Jimmy.

Cliff Lewis
Cliff Lewis is Jimmy and Alison Porter’s neighbor and friend. He helps Jimmy with the sweets stall and has a protective fondness for Alison. Read More
Helena Charles Helena Charles is an old friend of Alison and her family. Helena is a touring actress.

Alison’s mother
Alison Porter’s mother is fiercely protective of her daughter and had tried in the past to keep Alison from marrying Jimmy Porter. Because of this, Jimmy despises her. She is only mentioned in the play.

Madeline is an old flame of Jimmy Porter’s, who is 10 years older than he is. Though Madeline does not appear on stage, Jimmy contrasts her enthusiastic nature with Alison’s passiveness.

Nigel is Alison Porter’s brother. He is a politician, and Jimmy derides him for being “vague.” Nigel does not appear in the play.
Colonel Redfern Colonel Redfern is a retired military officer and Alison’s father. He rarely sees his daughter.

Hugh Tanner
Hugh Tanner is an old friend of Jimmy Porter’s. He and Alison Porter do not get along. Tanner is referenced in the play but does not appear in the action.

Mrs. Tanner
Mrs. Tanner, who does not appear on stage, is Hugh Tanner’s mother and the person who set Jimmy Porter up with the sweets stall. Jimmy is very fond of her, and he stays with her when she is dying.

Webster, who is mentioned in the course of the play, is a friend of Alison Porter’s. Jimmy Porter believes Webster is gay and so must understand suffering, as Jimmy does.


Q.15. What is anti-hero? Is Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger an anti-hero? Substantiate your answer with reference to the text. [DU. 2001]

Ans. An anti-hero is the central character, or protagonist who lacks traditional heroic qualities and virtues such as idealism, courage, and steadfastness. An anti-hero may be comic, antisocial, inept, or even pathetic, while retaining the sympathy of the reader. Anti-heroes are typically in conflict with a world they cannot control or whose values they reject. An anti-hero is presented as a ridiculous character and the plot of the play follows what happens to the hero, and is determined by the hero’s characteristics and choices as well as by circumstances.

Look Back in Anger is a genuine drama about real events and people, but there are certain enigmas regarding both the hero himself and the validity of his anger which is central to the action in the play.

Jimmy porter is an anti-hero because he lacks traditional heroic qualities and virtues. Obviously he is not an ideal character. He suffers, is frustrated, and makes terribly wrong choices-as the last scene makes clear, even for those who imagine that his blasphemy (it consists in his expressing the hope that Alison will have a baby, and that it will die) against life is a mere expression of the author’s sense of values. In the very first stage-direction, the author uses such expression about Jimmy as his apparent honesty, “to the point of vulgarity,” “almost non-committal.” These expressions naturally give rise to certain doubts in our minds about Jimmy.

Furthermore, from Jimmy’s first appearance his anger is no less ambiguous than he himself. Anger can be a virtue and it can be a dangerous vice also. A moralist will say that anger is good when it is selfless, compassionate and allied to positive action, and that it is evil when it is selfish and tainted with frustration, malice, and the desire to destroy.

We see that Jimmy lacks self-control and the result is that his ideals suffers a set back. His genuine affection for Cliff and love for Alison are at the mercy of his anger rather than directing it as they should. His trumpet can mock the universe but not sound a call to battle. He becomes an emotional liability to those whom he seeks to inspire.

To sum up, in consideration of the discussion, above, Jimmy Porter is not a traditional hero. He is not the epitome of the angry young men of his generation. He is rather a very exceptional individual, a tortured soul, at war with itself and with the world, an impotent soul which, like Hamlet, finds the time out of joint, but has not the capacity to set it right.




Q.16. Discuss the significance of the bear-and squirrel game in Osborne’s Look Back in Anger [DU. 2003, NU. 2006, 08, 10, 12, 15]

Ans. The bear-and-squirrel game in Look Back in Anger is a symbolic device that serves an important dramatic purpose. The conjugal life of Jimmy and Alison is marked by tension. This game of bear-and-squirrel is a brave attempt by the pair to compensate themselves for the failure of their marriage. The game, in fact, makes them forget the bitterness of their lives and gives them momentary happiness.

The “bear” and “the squirrel” represent Jimmy and Alison respectively. They are the stuffed toys that Alison and Jimmy keep on their dressing table. They are described symbolically in the stage directions at the beginning of the play-there is a heavy chest of drawers in which with other things lie a “large, tattered toy teddy bear and a soft, woolly squirrel”. Jimmy feels restless and isolated as a bear does. Bears never live in herds, Jimmy is also a misfit in the contemporary social set up. On the other hand, Alison is tender and docile like a squirrel, living on a shady tree and eating nuts. Alison has a bitter experience after her marriage. She married Jimmy much against her parents’ wishes. As Jimmy had no accommodation of his own as he was jobless, they had to stay with Hugh, one of Jimmy’s friend. The relationship between Alison and Jimmy is so strained that she is reluctant to reveal her pregnancy to him. When Helena suggests to her to reveal her pregnancy to Jimmy or must get out of “mad house”, Alison points to the game of ‘bear-and-squirrel’ as an escape into dumb, uncomplicated affection.”

The bear-and-squirrel game is a kind of escape for Alison and Jimmy from the harsh realities of life and their failure to adjust themselves to each other in their marital life. In Act I when Cliff goes out, Jimmy and Alison begin to play this game. Jimmy affectionately calls Alison a “beautiful, grey-eyed squirrels”, a “hoarding nut- munching squirrel.” etc., and this affectionate description pleased Alison so much that she produces the sound of a squirrel and calls Jimmy a “jolly super bear”, “a really marvellous bear”. In this moment of bliss she is about to tell Jimmy about her pregnancy when Cliff enters the room suddenly and Alison’s dream world is shattered.

Meanwhile, being fed up with Jimmy’s rude behaviour, Alison decides to leave him, picks up the toy squirrel from the chest of drawers, is about to put it in her suitcase but puts it back in the drawer. Since she has decided to leave Jimmy, the game with the squirrel loses its meaning for her. Her picking up the toy squirrel suggests her feeling of nostalgia and putting it back shows her disillusionment and disappointment.

At the end of the drama when a repentant Alison literally falls at Jimmy’s feet grovelling, he takes her in his arms and consoles her saying that he and she will be together again in their bear’s cave and squirrel’s nest and will live on lovely and on lots of nuts. Thus the bear-and-squirrel game is very significant in developing the action of the drama, Look Back in Anger.




Q.17. Trace autobiographical elements in Look Back in Anger.

Ans. A great many critics are of the opinion that Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger is a self-portrait of Osborne, the playwright. Jimmy shares the same kind of anger as Osborne (when he wrote the play), has sprung from a similar socio-economic background, and has seen his father dying in the prime of his life from a similar disease.

He also articulates Osborne’s disillusionment with contemporary British society and empire, and serves as his mouthpiece in denouncing the Church, the Royalty, the upper classes and traditional morality.

Jimmy seems to share Osborne’s own feeling in his denunciation of the middle class, Jimmy also resembles Osborne in his origin. Both of them have to encounter similar socioeconomic background. Jimmy faces opposition from Alison’s mother which are similar to those faced by Osborne himself while courting his wife Pamela. Like Jimmy, Osborne, too married Pamela much against her parents’ wishes. Jimmy holds the upper-class responsible for being unfair to him. Despite being highly qualified he earns his livelihood by running a sweet-stall. He feels that because of his humble background the upper-class has denied him his right. So Jimmy attacks the upper class by making sarcastic remarks on Alison’s family. All these criticisms of the middle-class people reveals Osborne’s own dislike of the middle-class.

In all these criticisms of the middle-classes, the author’s sympathies are no doubt wholly with Jimmy. This does not, however, mean that Osborne has tried to idealise Jimmy. In fact, Osborne points out certain serious faults of character from which Jimmy suffers. He particularly does this in the stage-directions where we find plenty of criticism of Jimmy, the criticism being sometimes direct and sometimes indirect or implied. Yet somehow the impression that is produced by a performance of the play or by our reading of the play as a whole is not unfavourable.

However, it would serve no useful purpose to hunt for biographical details and their parallels in Jimmy Porter’s life and character. But there can be no denying the fact that through Jimmy the dramatist has voiced his own “consciousness of class-conflict”, his own frustrations and his own bitterness. Emotionally Jimmy is certainly a self-portrait, though he may not be so as far as external reality is concerned. Osborne was an angry young man in life, and so is Jimmy Porter in the play.





Q.18. “Alison, in Look Back in Anger, has degraded herself through her humiliating reconciliation with her husband, Jimmy.” Explain the statement. [NU. 2008, 2011]
The ending of the play Look Back in Anger has been considered unsatisfactory. Do you agree? [NU. 2014]

Ans. Several critics opine that the ending of Look Back in Anger is most unsatisfactory. The ending is not appropriate because the whole cycle of torture and collapse is repeated. While witnessing or reading the play we feel sorry for Alison who is constantly subjected to Jimmy’s verbal attacks, and we feel relieved and delighted when she leaves him. But we cannot forgive her for her final grovelling return.

Let us examine the final scene of the play (Act III, Scene II). Helena decides to leave Jimmy and when she is gone, Jimmy and Alison become reconciled to each other. Now the question is whether Helena’s sudden decision to leave Jimmy seems improbable especially after the and loving words that the two had exchanged at the end of the preceding scene. Sufficient motivation has not been provided for her decision. It would have been better, for instance, if some kind of mental conflict in Helena had been depicted at some point earlier in the play to prepare us for reversal in her attitude towards Jimmy.

We cannot also accept Alison’s abject surrender to Jimmy. Alison’s grovelling to Jimmy and entreating him in a most abject manner seem to us improbable in an age when women are regarded equal to men in western society. Early in the play when Jimmy and Cliff wrestle with each other and fall down to the floor, Alison is greatly annoyed. Again Jimmy’s constant scolding her and his brutal treatment of her has been depressing her a good deal. Once she tells Cliff that she cannot bear insultation more and that she feels sick. When Cliff advises her to tell Jimmy about her pregnancy, she hesitate because she thinks that Jimmy will suspect her motives at once. Thereafter we find Jimmy criticising her for her passion which he compares to that of a python, for her going to church with Helena and for her indifference to Mrs. Tanner. His criticisms of her family have also been a constant torment to her. Later we find her telling her father that Jimmy married her most probably from motives of revenge. It was in this state of mind that she had left Jimmy. So her return to Jimmy and to fall at his feet seems most illogical and improbable.

Though Jimmy and Alison are happily reunited at the end, the way Alison makes a total surrender to her husband appears to be a humiliation of the status of women in the present century. It has degraded her personality to a great extent. But we must remember that Alison has suffered the greatest misfortune of her life. She has had a miscarriage and lost her baby. Having lost her baby, Alison has been feeling distraught and forlorn. And that is why she pays a visit to Jimmy, subconsciously thinking that she might reach an understanding with him. Besides, we cannot ignore the fact that Alison and Jimmy had really been in love with each other. We also remember, at the time of leaving with her father she left for Jimmy a note writing “I shall always have a deep loving need of you.”

Thus, the ending of the play, th reconciliation between Jimmy and Alison, is perfectly credible and appropriate. Without the reconciliation the play would have ended on a note of despair and we would have a negative view of life. So the happy ending of the play restores our faith in human nature and a ray of hope in the life of the couple in the days to come.



Prepared by :
Biplob Prodhan
Founder of EDNOUB.
Study Guides, Text Books, Wikipedia, Internet.



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Biplob Prodhan
Biplob Prodhan Founder & Director EDNOUB Foundation Ednoub Private Program

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