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January 15, 1958 - Image 9

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Wednesday, January 15, 1958

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE

Page Nine

-L

Wednesday January 15, 1958 THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE Paae Nine
II~_____________________________

'Look Back In Anger'
Poses a Problem
For an Age to Solve

i

(Contlnued from Pner
out of the lines of a play and the
performance and its actors, it is
too often satisfied,
f00K BACK IN ANGER bless-
~ edly does not follow this pat,
tern. Jimihy Porter is definitely
not average and not ordinary. The
trouble with "the guy we all know"
is just that; we all know what he
has to say, and listening to him
say it over again detracts just that
much time from discovering some-
thing we don't know about people+
by meeting a guy we don't know.+
Jimmy Porter is not so unfamiliar
that he is unrecognizable, but he
has one characteristic that differ-
entiates him from the lowest com-
mon denominator; he is intrinsi-
cally interesting. He is a man with1
some ideas. This does not prevent
the play from being realistic. It-is
created very much within the tra-
ditions of realism, but John Os-t
borne stands {among'the ranks of
the rare few who have grasped the
idea that reality has an essence
which is very extraordinary, that+
it is refined and pure at its core
and that the deepest truth of1
reality often lies in fantasy.
One of the devices employed by
Mr. Osborne is arriving at this
"essence of reality" by means ofC
the almost exclusive use of mono-
logue. The play is very much a
didactic one and, while it does not
appear that the Bard stands in
serious danger of being superseded,
these monologues often have a
Shakespearean quality which af-
fects the total construct of the
play, serving some of the same
functions, dramatically, as Shake-
speare's soliloquies. The language,
which ranges from the rude and
crude to the utterly fantastic, is
often reminiscent of Shakespeare's
diction. Alison and Jimmy, for
example, have a game of bears and
squirrels that they play and, in
the moment of their greatest des-
peration, when they have put aside
this game, Alison commiserates:
"Poor bear"
and continues at length about a
lonely bear wandering through the
forest. The concept and diction
are strongly reminiscent of the
"Poor bare forked animal" speech
in King Lear.
These are the embellishments
and riches of the play, but there
is. too, a very meaningful and
even painful reality. Its essence
lies in the question being put by
at least twenty critics, "What are
they angry about?" At this point
it becomes necessary to take up
the albatrosses tossed in the way
by various critics.
MOST of the English critics are
agreed that it is chiefly a mat-
ter of class conflict. Jimmy is
angry that, just because of the
class structure, his opportunities
are limited. He is angry with Ai-
son for being from the upper class.
If this is the literal message of the
play, it can have very little direct
bearing on Contemporary America.
Judging from the actual text of
the play, this is not precisely the
case. Colonel Redfern, Alison's
father, is angry too. There is a
sort of class distinction created by
the mmeories of different genera-
tions. These memories become, in
themselves, an additional barrier,
and this is international. For just
as Jimmy, as envisioned by All-
son, is:
"So alone and helpless"
So Colonel Redfern at his daugh-
ter's wedding is described by Port-
er himself as being:
"tinable to believe that he'd
left his riding whip at home."
They have each had their single
great moments and they are over.
Colonel Redfern's days in India
are an old man's past, and Jimmy
Porter's friendship with Hugh
Tanner is ended.

r'sHE SECOND theory being cur-
rently advanced about the
Miss Silverman, from Syra-
cuse, New York, is a senir
majoring in English. This is her
first appearance in the Magazine.

play, particularly by A r t h u r
Schlesinger Jr. in the New Re-
public is that Jimmy Porter is
angry with women, in general;
angry with himself for being mar-
ried. He is, but ever so latently, a
homosexual. To view the play in
this way is to commit as grave a
critical sin as it is to call Othello
a play about miscegenation or The
Merchant of Venice a play about
antisemitism. To calf. Jimmy Port-
er a latent homosexual is to miss
the point that Jimmy Porter is
effete, but his effeteness is the
disease of his age. This entire
facet of the problem is neatly
summarised in Jimmy's own
words:
"There are no causes."
This is not only Jimmy Porter's
problem, it was the problem of
the "lost generation" and now of
the bop generation. It is largely
the problem of the realists. At a
loss for a cause, a raison d'etre,
Jimmy Porter. and those authors
who write about him make their
raison d'etre the search for -a
cause. Unable to believe in the
dignity of this generation, its re-
presentatives settle upon degrada-
tion as the zenith or nadir of
existence. This is Jimmy's solu-
tion and justification for final
depravity and absolute degrada-
tion.

i
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