Jimmy Porter

Definition

Theater

  • The central character in John Osborne's play Look Backin Anger (1956), whose irascible speeches established the idea of the Angry Young Man of the period. The frustrated product ofa working-class background and a provincial university, Porter livesin a drab bedsit with his middle-class wife, Alison, who serves asthe butt for most of his invective.
    She's so clumsy. I watch for her to do the same things everynight. The way she jumps on the bed, as if she were stamping on someone'sface, and draws the curtains back with a great clatter, in that casuallydestructive way of hers. It's like someone launching a battleship.Have you ever noticed how noisy women are? Have you? The way theykick the floor about, simply walking over it? Or have you watchedthem sitting at their dressing tables, dropping their weapons andbanging down their bits of boxes and brushes and lipsticks?
    At the time, such harangues were thought to articulatea general disillusionment with postwar Britain. Porter, now in irritablemiddle age rather than angry youth, made a second appearance in Osborne'sDéjà vu (1992).

    When the original production of Look Back in Angerbecame a succès de scandale, George Devinehad the idea of asking the audience to remain in their seats afterthe performance to discuss the play with himself, Osborne, Tony Richardson(the director) and the cast (led by Kenneth Haigh as Porter and MaryUre as Alison). One evening the discussion centred on whether JimmyPorter was psychotic or merely neurotic. This led to an appeal fora clear distinction between these states. Two definitions were offered,both by psychiatrists in the audience. One: "a neurotic buildscastles in the air; a psychotic moves into them"; the other:"a neurotic thinks that two and two make four, but isworried that this may not be the case; a psychotic is quite sure thattwo and two make five and sees no reason to worry about it."

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