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In: Novels

Submitted By UDGSS
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READER’S JOURNAL

Ernest Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea (1952).
Joseph Heller. Catch-22 (1961).
Tennessee Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire (1959).
Iris Murdoch. The Black Prince (1973).
Jerome David Salinger. The Catcher in the Rye (1951).
Michael Ondaatje. The English Patient (1992).
Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 (1953).
Ken Kesey. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962).
Edward Albee. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962).
Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesman (1949).

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Ernest Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea (1952).
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FULL TITLE · The Old Man and the Sea
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AUTHOR · Ernest Hemingway
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TYPE OF WORK · Novella
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GENRE · Parable; tragedy
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LANGUAGE · English
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TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · 1951, Cuba
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DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1952
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PUBLISHER · Scribner’s
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NARRATOR · The novella is narrated by an anonymous narrator.
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POINT OF VIEW · Sometimes the narrator describes the characters and events objectively, that is, as they would appear to an outside observer. However, the narrator frequently provides details about Santiago’s inner thoughts and dreams.
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TONE · Despite the narrator’s journalistic, matter-of-fact tone, his reverence for Santiago and his struggle is apparent. The text affirms its hero to a degree unusual even for Hemingway.
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TENSE · Past
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SETTING (TIME) · Late 1940s
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SETTING (PLACE) · A small fishing village near Havana, Cuba; the waters of the Gulf of Mexico
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PROTAGONIST · Santiago
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MAJOR CONFLICT · For three days, Santiago struggles against the greatest fish of his long career.
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RISING ACTION · After eighty-four successive days without catching a fish, Santiago promises his former assistant, Manolin, that he will go “far out” into the ocean. The marlin takes the bait, but Santiago is unable to reel him in, which leads to a three-day struggle between the fisherman and the fish.
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CLIMAX · The marlin circles the skiff while Santiago slowly reels him in. Santiago nearly passes out from exhaustion but gathers enough strength to harpoon the marlin through the heart, causing him to lurch in an almost sexual climax of vitality before dying.
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FALLING ACTION · Santiago sails back to shore with the marlin tied to his boat. Sharks follow the marlin’s trail of blood and destroy it. Santiago arrives home toting only the fish’s skeletal carcass. The village fishermen respect their formerly ridiculed peer, and Manolin pledges to return to fishing with Santiago. Santiago falls into a deep sleep and dreams of lions.
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THEMES · The honor in struggle, defeat, and death; pride as the source of greatness and determination
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MOTIFS · Crucifixion imagery; life from death; the lions on the beach
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SYMBOLS · The marlin; the shovel-nosed sharks
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FORESHADOWING · Santiago’s insistence that he will sail out farther than ever before foreshadows his destruction; because the marlin is linked to Santiago, the marlin’s death foreshadows Santiago’s own destruction by the sharks.
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BIOGRAPHY.
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Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American author and journalist. His distinctive writing style, characterized by economy and understatement, influenced 20th-century fiction, as did his life of adventure and his public image. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Hemingway’s fiction was successful because the characters he presented exhibited authenticity that resonated with his audience. Many of his works are classics of American literature. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works during his lifetime; a further three novels, four collections of short stories, and three non-fiction works were published posthumously.
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PLOT.
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The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an epic struggle between an old, seasoned fisherman and the greatest catch of his life. For eighty-four days, Santiago, an aged Cuban fisherman, has set out to sea and returned empty-handed. So conspicuously unlucky is he that the parents of his young, devoted apprentice and friend, Manolin, have forced the boy to leave the old man in order to fish in a more prosperous boat. Nevertheless, the boy continues to care for the old man upon his return each night. He helps the old man tote his gear to his ramshackle hut, secures food for him, and discusses the latest developments in American baseball, especially the trials of the old man’s hero, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago is confident that his unproductive streak will soon come to an end, and he resolves to sail out farther than usual the following day. On the eighty-fifth day of his unlucky streak, Santiago does as promised, sailing his skiff far beyond the island’s shallow coastal waters and venturing into the Gulf Stream. He prepares his lines and drops them. At noon, a big fish, which he knows is a marlin, takes the bait that Santiago has placed one hundred fathoms deep in the waters. The old man expertly hooks the fish, but he cannot pull it in. Instead, the fish begins to pull the boat. Unable to tie the line fast to the boat for fear the fish would snap a taut line, the old man bears the strain of the line with his shoulders, back, and hands, ready to give slack should the marlin make a run. The fish pulls the boat all through the day, through the night, through another day, and through another night. It swims steadily northwest until at last it tires and swims east with the current. The entire time, Santiago endures constant pain from the fishing line. Whenever the fish lunges, leaps, or makes a dash for freedom, the cord cuts Santiago badly. Although wounded and weary, the old man feels a deep empathy and admiration for the marlin, his brother in suffering, strength, and resolve. On the third day the fish tires, and Santiago, sleep-deprived, aching, and nearly delirious, manages to pull the marlin in close enough to kill it with a harpoon thrust. Dead beside the skiff, the marlin is the largest Santiago has ever seen. He lashes it to his boat, raises the small mast, and sets sail for home. While Santiago is excited by the price that the marlin will bring at market, he is more concerned that the people who will eat the fish are unworthy of its greatness. As Santiago sails on with the fish, the marlin’s blood leaves a trail in the water and attracts sharks. The first to attack is a great mako shark, which Santiago manages to slay with the harpoon. In the struggle, the old man loses the harpoon and lengths of valuable rope, which leaves him vulnerable to other shark attacks. The old man fights off the successive vicious predators as best he can, stabbing at them with a crude spear he makes by lashing a knife to an oar, and even clubbing them with the boat’s tiller. Although he kills several sharks, more and more appear, and by the time night falls, Santiago’s continued fight against the scavengers is useless. They devour the marlin’s precious meat, leaving only skeleton, head, and tail. Santiago chastises himself for going “out too far,” and for sacrificing his great and worthy opponent. He arrives home before daybreak, stumbles back to his shack, and sleeps very deeply. The next morning, a crowd of amazed fishermen gathers around the skeletal carcass of the fish, which is still lashed to the boat. Knowing nothing of the old man’s struggle, tourists at a nearby café observe the remains of the giant marlin and mistake it for a shark. Manolin, who has been worried sick over the old man’s absence, is moved to tears when he finds Santiago safe in his bed. The boy fetches the old man some coffee and the daily papers with the baseball scores, and watches him sleep. When the old man wakes, the two agree to fish as partners once more. The old man returns to sleep and dreams his usual dream of lions at play on the beaches of Africa.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Santiago - The old man of the novella’s title, Santiago is a Cuban fisherman who has had an extended run of bad luck. Despite his expertise, he has been unable to catch a fish for eighty-four days. He is humble, yet exhibits a justified pride in his abilities. His knowledge of the sea and its creatures, and of his craft, is unparalleled and helps him preserve a sense of hope regardless of circumstance. Throughout his life, Santiago has been presented with contests to test his strength and endurance. The marlin with which he struggles for three days represents his greatest challenge. Paradoxically, although Santiago ultimately loses the fish, the marlin is also his greatest victory.
The marlin - Santiago hooks the marlin, which we learn at the end of the novella measures eighteen feet, on the first afternoon of his fishing expedition. Because of the marlin’s great size, Santiago is unable to pull the fish in, and the two become engaged in a kind of tug-of-war that often seems more like an alliance than a struggle. The fishing line serves as a symbol of the fraternal connection Santiago feels with the fish. When the captured marlin is later destroyed by sharks, Santiago feels destroyed as well. Like Santiago, the marlin is implicitly compared to Christ.
Manolin - A boy presumably in his adolescence, Manolin is Santiago’s apprentice and devoted attendant. The old man first took him out on a boat when he was merely five years old. Due to Santiago’s recent bad luck, Manolin’s parents have forced the boy to go out on a different fishing boat. Manolin, however, still cares deeply for the old man, to whom he continues to look as a mentor. His love for Santiago is unmistakable as the two discuss baseball and as the young boy recruits help from villagers to improve the old man’s impoverished conditions.
Joe DiMaggio - Although DiMaggio never appears in the novel, he plays a significant role nonetheless. Santiago worships him as a model of strength and commitment, and his thoughts turn toward DiMaggio whenever he needs to reassure himself of his own strength. Despite a painful bone spur that might have crippled another player, DiMaggio went on to secure a triumphant career. He was a center fielder for the New York Yankees from 1936 to 1951, and is often considered the best all-around player ever at that position.
Perico - Perico, the reader assumes, owns the bodega in Santiago’s village. He never appears in the novel, but he serves an important role in the fisherman’s life by providing him with newspapers that report the baseball scores. This act establishes him as a kind man who helps the aging Santiago.
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Martin - Like Perico, Martin, a café owner in Santiago’s village, does not appear in the story. The reader learns of him through Manolin, who often goes to Martin for Santiago’s supper. As the old man says, Martin is a man of frequent kindness who deserves to be repaid.

THEMES.
The Honor in Struggle, Defeat & Death
From the very first paragraph, Santiago is characterized as someone struggling against defeat. He has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish—he will soon pass his own record of eighty-seven days. Almost as a reminder of Santiago’s struggle, the sail of his skiff resembles “the flag of permanent defeat.” But the old man refuses defeat at every turn: he resolves to sail out beyond the other fishermen to where the biggest fish promise to be. He lands the marlin, tying his record of eighty-seven days after a brutal three-day fight, and he continues to ward off sharks from stealing his prey, even though he knows the battle is useless.
Because Santiago is pitted against the creatures of the sea, some readers choose to view the tale as a chronicle of man’s battle against the natural world, but the novella is, more accurately, the story of man’s place within nature. Both Santiago and the marlin display qualities of pride, honor, and bravery, and both are subject to the same eternal law: they must kill or be killed. As Santiago reflects when he watches the weary warbler fly toward shore, where it will inevitably meet the hawk, the world is filled with predators, and no living thing can escape the inevitable struggle that will lead to its death. Santiago lives according to his own observation: “man is not made for defeat . . . [a] man can be destroyed but not defeated.” In Hemingway’s portrait of the world, death is inevitable, but the best men (and animals) will nonetheless refuse to give in to its power. Accordingly, man and fish will struggle to the death, just as hungry sharks will lay waste to an old man’s trophy catch.
The novel suggests that it is possible to transcend this natural law. In fact, the very inevitability of destruction creates the terms that allow a worthy man or beast to transcend it. It is precisely through the effort to battle the inevitable that a man can prove himself. Indeed, a man can prove this determination over and over through the worthiness of the opponents he chooses to face. Santiago finds the marlin worthy of a fight, just as he once found “the great negro of Cienfuegos” worthy. His admiration for these opponents brings love and respect into an equation with death, as their destruction becomes a point of honor and bravery that confirms Santiago’s heroic qualities. One might characterize the equation as the working out of the statement “Because I love you, I have to kill you.” Alternately, one might draw a parallel to the poet John Keats and his insistence that beauty can only be comprehended in the moment before death, as beauty bows to destruction. Santiago, though destroyed at the end of the novella, is never defeated. Instead, he emerges as a hero. Santiago’s struggle does not enable him to change man’s place in the world. Rather, it enables him to meet his most dignified destiny.
Pride as the Source of Greatness & Determination
Many parallels exist between Santiago and the classic heroes of the ancient world. In addition to exhibiting terrific strength, bravery, and moral certainty, those heroes usually possess a tragic flaw—a quality that, though admirable, leads to their eventual downfall. If pride is Santiago’s fatal flaw, he is keenly aware of it. After sharks have destroyed the marlin, the old man apologizes again and again to his worthy opponent. He has ruined them both, he concedes, by sailing beyond the usual boundaries of fishermen. Indeed, his last word on the subject comes when he asks himself the reason for his undoing and decides, “Nothing . . . I went out too far.”
While it is certainly true that Santiago’s eighty-four-day run of bad luck is an affront to his pride as a masterful fisherman, and that his attempt to bear out his skills by sailing far into the gulf waters leads to disaster, Hemingway does not condemn his protagonist for being full of pride. On the contrary, Santiago stands as proof that pride motivates men to greatness. Because the old man acknowledges that he killed the mighty marlin largely out of pride, and because his capture of the marlin leads in turn to his heroic transcendence of defeat, pride becomes the source of Santiago’s greatest strength. Without a ferocious sense of pride, that battle would never have been fought, or more likely, it would have been abandoned before the end.
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Santiago’s pride also motivates his desire to transcend the destructive forces of nature. Throughout the novel, no matter how baleful his circumstances become, the old man exhibits an unflagging determination to catch the marlin and bring it to shore. When the first shark arrives, Santiago’s resolve is mentioned twice in the space of just a few paragraphs. First we are told that the old man “was full of resolution but he had little hope.” Then, sentences later, the narrator says, “He hit [the shark] without hope but with resolution.” The old man meets every challenge with the same unwavering determination: he is willing to die in order to bring in the marlin, and he is willing to die in order to battle the feeding sharks. It is this conscious decision to act, to fight, to never give up that enables Santiago to avoid defeat. Although he returns to Havana without the trophy of his long battle, he returns with the knowledge that he has acquitted himself proudly and manfully. Hemingway seems to suggest that victory is not a prerequisite for honor. Instead, glory depends upon one having the pride to see a struggle through to its end, regardless of the outcome. Even if the old man had returned with the marlin intact, his moment of glory, like the marlin’s meat, would have been short-lived. The glory and honor Santiago accrues comes not from his battle itself but from his pride and determination to fight.
MOTIFS.
Crucifixion Imagery
In order to suggest the profundity of the old man’s sacrifice and the glory that derives from it, Hemingway purposefully likens Santiago to Christ, who, according to Christian theology, gave his life for the greater glory of humankind. Crucifixion imagery is the most noticeable way in which Hemingway creates the symbolic parallel between Santiago and Christ. When Santiago’s palms are first cut by his fishing line, the reader cannot help but think of Christ suffering his stigmata. Later, when the sharks arrive, Hemingway portrays the old man as a crucified martyr, saying that he makes a noise similar to that of a man having nails driven through his hands. Furthermore, the image of the old man struggling up the hill with his mast across his shoulders recalls Christ’s march toward Calvary. Even the position in which Santiago collapses on his bed—face down with his arms out straight and the palms of his hands up—brings to mind the image of Christ suffering on the cross. Hemingway employs these images in the final pages of the novella in order to link Santiago to Christ, who exemplified transcendence by turning loss into gain, defeat into triumph, and even death into renewed life.
Life from Death
Death is the unavoidable force in the novella, the one fact that no living creature can escape. But death, Hemingway suggests, is never an end in itself: in death there is always the possibility of the most vigorous life. The reader notes that as Santiago slays the marlin, not only is the old man reinvigorated by the battle, but the fish also comes alive “with his death in him.” Life, the possibility of renewal, necessarily follows on the heels of death.
Whereas the marlin’s death hints at a type of physical reanimation, death leads to life in less literal ways at other points in the novella. The book’s crucifixion imagery emphasizes the cyclical connection between life and death, as does Santiago’s battle with the marlin. His success at bringing the marlin in earns him the awed respect of the fishermen who once mocked him, and secures him the companionship of Manolin, the apprentice who will carry on Santiago’s teachings long after the old man has died.
The Lions on the Beach
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Santiago dreams his pleasant dream of the lions at play on the beaches of Africa three times. The first time is the night before he departs on his three-day fishing expedition, the second occurs when he sleeps on the boat for a few hours in the middle of his struggle with the marlin, and the third takes place at the very end of the book. In fact, the sober promise of the triumph and regeneration with which the novella closes is supported by the final image of the lions. Because Santiago associates the lions with his youth, the dream suggests the circular nature of life. Additionally, because Santiago imagines the lions, fierce predators, playing, his dream suggests a harmony between the opposing forces—life and death, love and hate, destruction and regeneration—of nature.
SYMBOLS.
The Marlin
Magnificent and glorious, the marlin symbolizes the ideal opponent. In a world in which “everything kills everything else in some way,” Santiago feels genuinely lucky to find himself matched against a creature that brings out the best in him: his strength, courage, love, and respect.
The Shovel-Nosed Sharks
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The shovel-nosed sharks are little more than moving appetites that thoughtlessly and gracelessly attack the marlin. As opponents of the old man, they stand in bold contrast to the marlin, which is worthy of Santiago’s effort and strength. They symbolize and embody the destructive laws of the universe and attest to the fact that those laws can be transcended only when equals fight to the death. Because they are base predators, Santiago wins no glory from battling them.
QUOTATION.
“I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars.” Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. . . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.
This passage is found at the end of the third day related by the novella. As Santiago struggles with the marlin, he reflects upon the nature of the universe and his place in it. He displays both pity for the fish and an unflagging determination to kill it, because the marlin’s death helps to reinvigorate the fisherman’s life. The predatory nature of this exchange is inevitable, for just as hawks will continue to hunt warblers, men will continue to kill marlin, and sharks will continue to rob them of their catches. The cruelty of this natural order is subverted, however, because of the kinship Santiago feels for his prey. His opponent is worthy—so worthy, in fact, that he later goes on to say that it doesn’t matter who kills whom. There is, in the old man’s estimation, some sense to this order. Man can achieve greatness only when placed in a well-matched contest against his earthly brothers. To find glory, Santiago does not need to extend himself beyond his animal nature by looking to the sun or the stars.
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Joseph Heller. Catch-22 (1961).

FULL TITLE · Catch-22

AUTHOR · Joseph Heller

TYPE OF WORK · Novel

GENRE · War novel; satire

LANGUAGE · English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · 1955–1961, New York

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1961

PUBLISHER · Simon & Schuster, Inc.

NARRATOR · The anonymous narrator is omniscient, seeing and knowing all things. The narrator presents characters and events in a humorous, satirical light but seems to have real sympathy for some of them as well.

POINT OF VIEW · The narrator speaks in the third person, focusing mostly on what Yossarian does and what Yossarian thinks and feels. Occasionally, the narrator also shows us how other characters, such as the chaplain or Hungry Joe, experience the world around them.

TONE · The narrator presents ridiculous behavior and illogical arguments in a flatly satirical tone, never stating outright that matters are funny, but always making the reader aware of how outrageously bizarre the characters and situations are.

TENSE · The story is written in the past tense. Although the book settles into a more chronological order as it approaches its end, most of Catch-22 is told out of sequence, with events from the past mixed in with events from the present.

SETTING (TIME) · Near the end of World War II

SETTING (PLACE) · Pianosa, a small island off the coast of Italy. Although Pianosa is a real place, Heller has taken some creative liberties with it, enlarging it to hold all the action of the novel.
PROTAGONIST · John Yossarian, an Air Force captain and bombardier stationed in Pianosa

MAJOR CONFLICT · Yossarian struggles to stay alive, despite the many parties who seem to want him dead.

RISING ACTION · The rising action in the novel’s present time is Yossarian’s growing certainty that he will never be allowed to go home. Alongside Yossarian’s certainty is a second subplot that takes place in the past: the bombing run on which Snowden was killed. As the novel moves along, we are allowed to see more and more of this pivotal scene.

CLIMAX · The two climaxes of Catch-22 happen simultaneously. The first climax occurs when Yossarian is offered a choice: he can either face a court-martial or be sent home if he agrees to support Cathcart and Korn. The second climax, which occurs as Yossarian makes his decision, is the final flashback to Snowden’s death, in which all the details of this critical event are at last revealed.

FALLING ACTION · Remembering the lesson of Snowden’s death, Yossarian decides that he cannot betray the other men in his squadron by forcing them to fly his missions for him. Instead, he decides to desert the army and flee the camp.

THEMES · The absolute power of bureaucracy; loss of religious faith; the impotence of language; the inevitability of death

MOTIFS · Catch-22; number of missions; Washington Irving

SYMBOLS · Chocolate-covered cotton; the soldier in white; aerial photographs

FORESHADOWING · Snowden’s death is heavily foreshadowed, but in the unusual vehicle of Yossarian’s memories. Yossarian recalls the death very briefly several times near the beginning of Catch-22. It is not until the second-to-last chapter that the death is finally described in full.

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BIOGRAPHY.
Joseph Heller (1923-1999) was born in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, the son of poor Jewish parents, Lena and Isaac Donald Heller,[4] from Russia.[5] Even as a child, he loved to write; as a teenager, he wrote a story about the Russian invasion of Finland and sent it to the New York Daily News, which rejected it.[6] At least one scholar suggests that he knew that he wanted to become a writer, after recalling that he received a children's version of the Iliad when he was ten.[citation needed] After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941,[7][8] Heller spent the next year working as a blacksmith's apprentice,[9] a messenger boy, and a filing clerk.[5] In 1942, at age 19, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. Two years later he was sent to the Italian Front, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier.[9] His unit was the 488th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bomb Group, 12th Air Force. Heller later remembered the war as "fun in the beginning ... You got the feeling that there was something glorious about it."[10] On his return home he "felt like a hero ... People think it quite remarkable that I was in combat in an airplane and I flew sixty missions even though I tell them that the missions were largely milk runs"[10] ("Milk runs" were combat missions, but mostly uneventful due to a lack of intense opposition from enemy anti-aircraft artillery or fighters).

After the war, Heller studied English at the University of Southern California and NYU on the G.I. Bill.[11] In 1949, he received his M.A. in English from Columbia University.[12] Following his graduation, he spent a year as a Fulbright scholar at St Catherine's College, Oxford (1949–50),[13] and, after returning home, he taught composition at Pennsylvania State University for two years (1950–52).[14] He also taught fiction and dramatic writing at Yale.[15] He then briefly worked for Time Inc.,[11] before taking a job as a copywriter at a small advertising agency,[9][16] where he worked alongside future novelist Mary Higgins Clark.[17] At home, Heller wrote. He was first published in 1948, when The Atlantic ran one of his short stories. The story nearly won the "Atlantic First".[6]

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He was married to Shirley Held from 1945 to 1981 and they had two children, Erica (born 1952) and Ted (born 1956).
PLOT.
During the second half of World War II, a soldier named Yossarian is stationed with his Air Force squadron on the island of Pianosa, near the Italian coast in the Mediterranean Sea. Yossarian and his friends endure a nightmarish, absurd existence defined by bureaucracy and violence: they are inhuman resources in the eyes of their blindly ambitious superior officers. The squadron is thrown thoughtlessly into brutal combat situations and bombing runs in which it is more important for the squadron members to capture good aerial photographs of explosions than to destroy their targets. Their colonels continually raise the number of missions that they are required to fly before being sent home, so that no one is ever sent home. Still, no one but Yossarian seems to realize that there is a war going on; everyone thinks he is crazy when he insists that millions of people are trying to kill him.

Yossarian’s story forms the core of the novel, so most events are refracted through his point of view. Yossarian takes the whole war personally: unswayed by national ideals or abstract principles, Yossarian is furious that his life is in constant danger through no fault of his own. He has a strong desire to live and is determined to be immortal or die trying. As a result, he spends a great deal of his time in the hospital, faking various illnesses in order to avoid the war. As the novel progresses through its loosely connected series of recurring stories and anecdotes, Yossarian is continually troubled by his memory of Snowden, a soldier who died in his arms on a mission when Yossarian lost all desire to participate in the war. Yossarian is placed in ridiculous, absurd, desperate, and tragic circumstances—he sees friends die and disappear, his squadron get bombed by its own mess officer, and colonels and generals volunteer their men for the most perilous battle in order to enhance their own reputations.

Catch-22 is a law defined in various ways throughout the novel. First, Yossarian discovers that it is possible to be discharged from military service because of insanity. Always looking for a way out, Yossarian claims that he is insane, only to find out that by claiming that he is insane he has proved that he is obviously sane—since any sane person would claim that he or she is insane in order to avoid flying bombing missions. Elsewhere, Catch-22 is defined as a law that is illegal to read. Ironically, the place where it is written that it is illegal is in Catch-22 itself. It is yet again defined as the law that the enemy is allowed to do anything that one can’t keep him from doing. In short, then, Catch-22 is any paradoxical, circular reasoning that catches its victim in its illogic and serves those who have made the law. Catch-22 can be found in the novel not only where it is explicitly defined but also throughout the characters’ stories, which are full of catches and instances of circular reasoning that trap unwitting bystanders in their snares—for instance, the ability of the powerful officer Milo Minderbinder to make great sums of money by trading among the companies that he himself owns.

As Yossarian struggles to stay alive, a number of secondary stories unfold around him. His friend Nately falls in love with a whore from Rome and woos her constantly, despite her continued indifference and the fact that her kid sister constantly interferes with their romantic rendezvous. Finally, she falls in love with Nately, but he is killed on his very next mission. When Yossarian brings her the bad news, she blames him for Nately’s death and tries to stab him every time she sees him thereafter. Another subplot follows the rise of the black-market empire of Milo Minderbinder, the squadron’s mess hall officer. Milo runs a syndicate in which he borrows military planes and pilots to transport food between various points in Europe, making a massive profit from his sales. Although he claims that “everyone has a share” in the syndicate, this promise is later proven false. Milo’s enterprise flourishes nonetheless, and he is revered almost religiously by communities all over Europe.

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The novel draws to a close as Yossarian, troubled by Nately’s death, refuses to fly any more missions. He wanders the streets of Rome, encountering every kind of human horror—rape, disease, murder. He is eventually arrested for being in Rome without a pass, and his superior officers, Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn, offer him a choice. He can either face a court-martial or be released and sent home with an honorable discharge. There is only one condition: in order to be released, he must approve of Cathcart and Korn and state his support for their policy, which requires all the men in the squadron to fly eighty missions. Although he is tempted by the offer, Yossarian realizes that to comply would be to endanger the lives of other innocent men. He chooses another way out, deciding to desert the army and flee to neutral Sweden. In doing so, he turns his back on the dehumanizing machinery of the military, rejects the rule of Catch-22, and strives to gain control of his own life.

THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Yossarian - The protagonist and hero of the novel. Yossarian is a captain in the Air Force and a lead bombardier in his squadron, but he hates the war. His powerful desire to live has led him to the conclusion that millions of people are trying to kill him, and he has decided either to live forever or, ironically, die trying.
Milo Minderbinder - A fantastically powerful mess officer, Milo controls an international black-market syndicate and is revered in obscure corners all over the world. He ruthlessly chases after profit and bombs his own men as part of a contract with Germany. Milo insists that everyone in the squadron will benefit from being part of the syndicate and that “everyone has a share.” He also takes his job as mess officer very, very seriously; as a result, the troops in Yossarian’s division eat better than any others.
Doc Daneeka - The medical officer. Doc Daneeka feels very sorry for himself because the war has interrupted his lucrative private practice in the United States, and he refuses to listen to other people’s problems. Doc Daneeka is the first person to explain Catch-22 to Yossarian.
The chaplain - A friend of Yossarian. Timid and thoughtful, the chaplain is haunted by a sensation of déjà vu (the feeling of having seen or experienced a particular thing before) and begins to lose his faith in God as the novel progresses.
Colonel Cathcart - The ambitious, unintelligent officer in charge of Yossarian’s squadron. Colonel Cathcart wants to be a general, and he tries to impress his superiors by bravely volunteering his men for dangerous combat duty whenever he gets the chance. As he tries to scheme his way ahead, he considers successful actions “feathers in his cap” and unsuccessful ones “black eyes.”
Hungry Joe - An unhinged member of Yossarian’s squadron. A former photographer for Life magazine, Hungry Joe is obsessed with photographing naked women. He has horrible nightmares on nights when he is not scheduled to fly a combat mission the next morning.
Nately - A good-natured nineteen-year-old boy in Yossarian’s squadron. Nately, who comes from a wealthy home, falls in love with a whore in Rome and generally tries to keep Yossarian from getting into trouble.
Nately’s whore - The beautiful whore with whom Nately falls in love in Rome.
McWatt - A cheerful, polite pilot who often flies Yossarian’s planes. McWatt likes to joke around with Yossarian and sometimes buzzes the squadron.
Clevinger - An idealistic member of Yossarian’s squadron. Clevinger firmly believes in such concepts as country, loyalty, and duty, and argues about them with Yossarian.
Dobbs - A co-pilot, Dobbs seizes the controls from Huple during the mission to Avignon, the same mission on which Snowden died.
Dunbar - A friend of Yossarian and the only other person who seems to understand that there is a war going on. Dunbar has decided to live as long as possible by making time pass as slowly as possible, so he treasures boredom and discomfort.
Major Major Major Major - The supremely mediocre squadron commander. Born Major Major Major, he is promoted to major on his first day in the army by a mischievous computer. Major Major is painfully awkward and will see people in his office only when he is not there. His promotion to squadron commander distances him from the other soldiers, reducing him to loneliness.
Major —— de Coverley - The fierce, intense executive officer of the squadron. Major —— de Coverley is revered and feared by the men. They are afraid to ask his first name, even though all he does is play horseshoes and rent apartments for the officers in cities taken by American forces.
Aarfy - Yossarian’s navigator, even though he gets lost wherever he goes. Aarfy infuriates Yossarian by pretending that he cannot hear Yossarian’s orders during bombing runs.
Orr - Yossarian’s often-maddening roommate. Orr is a gifted fix-it man who is always constructing little improvements to the tent that he shares with Yossarian. He almost always crashes his plane or is shot down on combat missions, but he always manages to survive.
Appleby - A handsome, athletic member of the squadron and a superhuman Ping-Pong player. Orr enigmatically says that Appleby has flies in his eyes.
Captain Black - The squadron’s bitter intelligence officer. Captain Black wants nothing more than to be squadron commander. He exults in the men’s discomfort and does everything he can to increase it; when Nately falls in love with a whore in Rome, Captain Black begins to buy her services regularly just to taunt him.
Lieutenant Colonel Korn - Colonel Cathcart’s wily, cynical sidekick.
Major Danby - The timid operations officer. Before the war, Danby was a college professor; now, he does his best for his country.
General Dreedle - A grumpy old general in charge of the wing in which Yossarian’s squadron is placed. General Dreedle is the victim of a private war waged against him by the ambitious General Peckem.
Nurse Duckett - A nurse in the Pianosa hospital who becomes Yossarian’s lover.
Chief White Halfoat - An alcoholic Native American from Oklahoma who has decided to die of pneumonia.
Havermeyer - A fearless lead bombardier. Havermeyer never takes evasive action, and he enjoys shooting field mice at night.
Huple - A fifteen-year-old pilot who was flying the mission to Avignon on which Snowden was killed. Huple is Hungry Joe’s roommate; his cat likes to sleep on Hungry Joe’s face.
Washington Irving - A famous American author whose name Yossarian signs to letters during one of his many stays in the hospital. Eventually, military intelligence believes Washington Irving to be the name of a covert insubordinate, and two C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Division) men are dispatched to ferret him out of the squadron.
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Luciana - A beautiful girl Yossarian meets, sleeps with, and falls in love with during a brief period in Rome.

Mudd - Generally referred to as “the dead man in Yossarian’s tent,” Mudd was a squadron member who was killed in action before he could be processed as an official member of the squadron. As a result, he is listed as never having arrived, and no one has the authority to move his belongings out of Yossarian’s tent.
Lieutenant Scheisskopf - Later a colonel and eventually a general. Scheisskopf, whose name is German for “shithead,” helps train Yossarian’s squadron in America and shows an unsettling passion for elaborate military parades.
The soldier in white - A body completely covered with bandages in Yossarian and Dunbar’s ward in the Pianosa hospital. The body terrifies the men.
Snowden - The young gunner whose death over Avignon shattered Yossarian’s courage and caused him to experience the shock of war. Snowden died in Yossarian’s arms with his entrails splattered all over Yossarian’s uniform, a trauma that is gradually revealed over the course of the novel.
Corporal Whitcomb - The chaplain’s atheist assistant, and later a sergeant. Corporal Whitcomb hates the chaplain for holding back his career and makes the chaplain a suspect in the Washington Irving scandal.
Ex-p.f.c. Wintergreen - The mail clerk at the Twenty-seventh Air Force Headquarters, Wintergreen is able to intercept and forge documents and thus wields enormous power in the Air Force. He continually goes AWOL (Absent Without Leave) and is continually punished with loss of rank.
General Peckem - The ambitious special operations general who plots incessantly to take over General Dreedle’s position.
Kid Sampson - A pilot in the squadron.
Colonel Moodus - General Dreedle’s son-in-law. General Dreedle despises Colonel Moodus and enjoys watching Chief White Halfoat bust him in the nose.
Flume - Chief White Halfoat’s old roommate, who is so afraid of having his throat slit while he sleeps that he has taken to living in the forest.
Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife - The lieutenant’s wife and the lover of all the men in her husband’s squadron, including Yossarian, with whom she debates about God.
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THEMES.
The Absolute Power of Bureaucracy
One of the most terrifying aspects of Catch-22 is the fact that the lives and deaths of the men in Yossarian’s squadron are governed not by their own decisions concerning dangerous risks but by the decisions of an impersonal, frightening bureaucracy. The men must risk their lives even when they know that their missions are useless, as when they are forced to keep flying combat missions late in the novel even after they learn that the Allies have essentially won the war. The bureaucrats are absolutely deaf to any attempts that the men make to reason with them logically; they defy logic at every turn. Major Major, for example, will see people in his office only when he is not there, and Doc Daneeka won’t ground Yossarian for insanity because Yossarian’s desire to be grounded reveals that he must be sane.

Several scenes of interrogation add to the bureaucracy’s frustrating refusal to listen to reason. In one such scene, Scheisskopf interrogates Clevinger but will not let Clevinger state his innocence because he is too busy correcting Clevinger’s way of speaking. In another such scene, the chaplain is taken into a cellar and accused of a crime, but the men interrogating him do not know what the crime is—they hope to find out by interrogating him. In these and other instances, Yossarian’s companions learn that what they do and say has very little effect on what happens to them. All they can do is learn to navigate their way through the bureaucracy, using its illogical rules to their own advantage whenever possible.

Loss of Religious Faith
Even the chaplain begins to doubt his faith in God by the end of Catch-22. His disillusionment stems in part from Colonel Cathcart’s constant attempts to use the outward manifestations of religion to further his own ambition. Heller’s treatment of the subject of God is most focused in the Thanksgiving discussion between Yossarian and Scheisskopf’s wife. Both are atheists: Mrs. Scheisskopf does not believe in a just and loving God, whereas the God in whom Yossarian does not believe is a bumbling fool. Yossarian points out that no truly good, omniscient God would have created phlegm and tooth decay, let alone human suffering. Yossarian has experienced so many terrible things that he cannot believe in a God who would create such a wide array of options when it comes to pain and death. But the loss of faith in God does not mean a world without morals for the characters. Instead, it means a world in which each man must make his own morals—as Yossarian does when he chooses to desert the army rather than betray his squadron.

The Impotence of Language
In the first chapter of Catch-22, we see Yossarian randomly deleting words from the letters that he is required to censor while he is in the hospital. At first, this act seems terrible: the letters are the men’s only way of communicating with loved ones at home, and Yossarian is destroying that line of communication. As we learn more about Yossarian’s world, however, we see that the military bureaucracy has taken the communicative power out of language. As Snowden dies in the back of the plane, all that Yossarian can think of to say is “there, there,” over and over. He knows his words have no power to comfort Snowden, but he does not know what else to do. Faced with the realities of death and the absurdity of its circumstances, language seems unable to communicate any sort of reassurance.
While language has no power to comfort in the novel, it does have the power to circumvent logic and trap the squadron in an inescapable prison of bureaucracy. Catch-22 itself is nothing but a bunch of words strung together to circumvent logic and keep Yossarian flying missions. Catch-22 even contains a clause that makes it illegal to read Catch-22, demonstrating how absolutely powerful the concept of Catch-22 is. Yossarian knows that since it is nothing but words, Catch-22 does not really exist, but within the framework of the bureaucratic military, he has no choice but to accept the illogical prison in which these words place him.

The Inevitability of Death
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Yossarian’s one goal—to stay alive or die trying—is based on the assumption that he must ultimately fail. He believes that Snowden’s gory death revealed a secret: that man is, ultimately, garbage. The specter of death haunts Yossarian constantly, in forms ranging from the dead man in his tent to his memories of Snowden. Furthermore, Yossarian is always visualizing his own death and is absolutely flabbergasted by the total number of ways in which it is possible for a human being to die. But Yossarian’s awareness of the inevitability of death is not entirely negative: it gives him a sense of how precious life is, after all, and he vows to live for as long as possible. He also lives more fully than he would without his constant consciousness of life’s frailty. He falls in love constantly and passionately, and he laments every second that he cannot spend enjoying the good things in the world.

Motifs

Catch-22
One version of Catch-22 keeps Yossarian flying combat mission after combat mission: Doc Daneeka cannot ground him for insanity unless he asks, but if he asks to be grounded, then he must be sane. In this sense, Catch-22 is a piece of circular reasoning that keeps Yossarian trapped in a paradox that determines whether he lives or dies, even though it is made only of words. But Catch-22 has many other permutations, most notably in the final, general principle stated by the old Italian woman in the ruined brothel: “they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.” This description of Catch-22 proves what Yossarian has known all along: Catch-22 does not really exist. It is just a name made up for an illogical argument that justifies what is really going on. Behind Catch-22 stands an unswerving principle: might makes right.

Catch-22 also manifests itself even when it is not explicitly named. Both the doctor and the chaplain have been caught up in their own versions of Catch-22, since war drastically undermines the premises of their professions and yet calls upon them to practice those professions in the name of war. Even Heller’s style is in a way a Catch-22; the dialogue leaps haphazardly from one comment to another, often arriving at a point exactly opposite of that which the person speaking is trying to express.

Number of Missions
Colonel Cathcart wants to be promoted to general; to gain promotion, he constantly raises the number of missions that the men are required to fly before they can be discharged. The number of missions increases as time goes on, providing us with one of the few ways we have of keeping track of the chronology of Catch-22. The number of missions is also the primary trap from which the men in the squadron are unable to escape: each time Hungry Joe completes his missions or Yossarian comes near completing them, the number is raised yet again. The utter futility of trying to get out of the system the honest way, by flying the required number of missions, is what prompts Orr and Yossarian to seek alternative methods of escape.

Washington Irving

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First signed as a forgery by Yossarian in the hospital, the name Washington Irving (or Irving Washington) is soon adopted by Major Major, who signs the name because the paperwork with Irving’s name on it never comes back to him. Washington Irving is a figment of the imagination who is, in a sense, the perfect person to deal with bureaucracy: because he does not exist, he is ideally suited to the meaningless shuffle of paperwork.

SYMBOLS. Chocolate-Covered Cotton
Aided by Yossarian, Milo comes up with the idea of selling chocolate-covered cotton to the government after he discovers that there is a glut of cotton in the market and that he cannot sell his own cotton. Milo’s product hides the lack of substance beneath an enticing exterior, showing the way in which bureaucracy can be fooled by appearances and is unable to measure actual substance or real merit.

The Soldier in White
The soldier in white, a bandage-wrapped, faceless, nameless body that lies in the hospital in the first chapter of the novel, represents the way the army treats men as interchangeable objects. When, months after his death, he is replaced by another, identical soldier in white, everyone assumes it is the same person.

Aerial Photographs
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When the men go on bombing missions, they often later learn that the real purpose of the mission was either to make an explosion that would be beautiful when it showed up on aerial photographs or to clear out foliage so that better aerial photography will be possible. The photographs themselves, then, stand for the way in which the dehumanization of war—in this case, the detachment of the upper levels of military bureaucracy from the tragedy of war—allows for its horrors to be seen merely for their aesthetic effects.
EXPLANATION OF THE NOVEL'S TITLE.
A magazine excerpt from the novel was originally published as Catch-18, but Heller's publisher requested that he change the title of the novel so it wouldn't be confused with another recently published World War II novel, Leon Uris's Mila 18. The number 18 has special meaning in Judaism and was relevant to early drafts of the novel which had a somewhat greater Jewish emphasis.[1]
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There was a suggestion for the title Catch-11, with the duplicated 1 in parallel to the repetition found in a number of character exchanges in the novel, but due to the release of the original "Rat Pack" movie, Ocean's Eleven, this was also rejected. Catch-14 was also rejected apparently because the publisher did not feel that 14 was a "funny number." So eventually the title came to be Catch-22, which like 11 has a duplicated digit with the 2 also referring to a number of déjà vu like events common in the novel.[1]
QUOTATION.
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he would have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.
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This passage from Chapter 5 marks the novel’s first mention of the paradoxical law called “Catch-22.” Over the course of the novel, Catch-22 is described in a number of different ways that can be applied to a number of different aspects of wartime life; here, however, Catch-22 affects Yossarian most specifically. Catch-22 is alarmingly persuasive; even Yossarian accepts what seems to be its logical infallibility. But Catch-22 is an abstract thing; we find out later that Yossarian believes that Catch-22 does not really exist. It is a trap made up of words, and words are faulty things, often misrepresenting reality. What is so upsetting about the way Catch-22 is applied throughout the novel is that real men are sent into real peril based on a few unreal and unreliable words.

Tennessee Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire (1959).

FULL TITLE · A Streetcar Named Desire

AUTHOR · Tennessee Williams

TYPE OF WORK · Play

GENRE · Tragedy

LANGUAGE · English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · Late 1940s, New Orleans

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1947

PUBLISHER · New Directions

TONE · Ironic and sympathetic realism

SETTING (TIME) · 1940s

SETTING (PLACE) · New Orleans, Louisiana

PROTAGONIST · Blanche DuBois

MAJOR CONFLICT · Blanche DuBois, an aging Southern debutante, arrives at her sister’s home in New Orleans hoping to start a new life after losing her ancestral mansion, her job, and her reputation in her hometown of Laurel, Mississippi. Blanche’s brother-in-law, a macho working-class guy named Stanley Kowalski, is so filled with class resentment that he seeks to destroy Blanche’s character in New Orleans as well. His cruelty, combined with Blanche’s fragile, insecure personality, leaves her mentally detached from reality by the play’s end.

RISING ACTION · Blanche immediately rouses the suspicion of Stanley, who (wrongly) suspects Blanche of swindling Stella out of her inheritance. Blanche grows to despise Stanley when she sees him drunkenly beat her pregnant sister. Stanley permanently despises Blanche after he overhears her trying to convince Stella to leave Stanley because he is common. Already suspicious of Blanche’s act of superiority, Stanley researches Blanche’s past. He discovers that in Laurel Blanche was known for her sexual promiscuity and for having an affair with a teenage student. He reports his findings to Blanche’s suitor, Mitch, dissuading Mitch from marrying Blanche.

CLIMAX · After Stanley treats Blanche cruelly during her birthday dinner, giving her a bus ticket back to Laurel as a present, Stella goes into labor. She and Stanley depart for the hospital, leaving Blanche alone in the house. Mitch arrives, drunk, and breaks off his relationship with Blanche. Blanche, alone in the apartment once more, drowns herself in alcohol and dreams of an impossible rescue. Stanley returns to the apartment from the hospital and rapes Blanche.

FALLING ACTION · Weeks after the rape, Stella secretly prepares for Blanche’s departure to an insane asylum. She tells her neighbor Eunice that she simply couldn’t believe Blanche’s accusation that Stanley raped her. Unaware of reality, Blanche boasts that she is leaving to join a millionaire suitor. When the doctor arrives, Blanche leaves after a minor struggle, and only Stella and Mitch, who sits in the kitchen with Stanley’s poker players, seem to express real remorse for her.

THEMES · Fantasy’s inability to overcome reality; the relationship between sex and death; dependence on men

MOTIFS · Light; bathing; drunkenness

SYMBOLS · Shadows and cries; the Varsouviana polka; “It’s Only a Paper Moon”; meat

FORESHADOWING · In Scene Ten, Williams takes a brief detour away from events in the Kowalski household to show a street scene involving a prostitute, her male admirer, and a Negro woman. The man follows the prostitute solicitously, there is a struggle offstage, and then the Negro woman runs away with the prostitute’s handbag. This scene foreshadows Stanley’s rape of Blanche, which occurs offstage at the scene’s end. Stanley’s raiding of Blanche’s trunk in Scene Two also foreshadows the rape.

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BIOGRAPHY.
Thomas Lanier "Tennessee" Williams III (1911-1983) was an American playwright and author of many stage classics. After years of obscurity, he became suddenly famous with The Glass Menagerie (1944), closely reflecting his own unhappy family background. This heralded a string of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Orpheus Descending, and Sweet Bird of Youth. His later work attempted a new style that did not appeal to audiences, and alcohol and drug dependence further inhibited his creative output.

Williams adapted much of his best work for the cinema, and also wrote short stories, poetry, essays and a volume of memoirs. In 1979, four years before his death, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

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He was born of English, Welsh, and Huguenot descent, in Columbus, Mississippi, the second child of Edwina (née Dakin) and Cornelius Coffin (C.C.) Williams.:11 His father was a hard-drinking traveling shoe salesman who spent most of his time away from home. His mother, Edwina, was an archetype of the 'Southern belle', whose social aspirations tilted toward snobbery and whose behavior could be neurotic and hysterical. His maternal grandfather, the Reverend Walter Dakin, was the local Episcopal priest, and his grandmother, Rose O. Dakin, was a music teacher. Shortly after Williams' birth, his grandfather Dakin was assigned to a parish in Clarksdale, Mississippi and Williams' early childhood was spent in the parsonage there. Williams had two siblings, sister Rose Isabel Williams (1909–1996) and brother Walter Dakin Williams (1919–2008).
PLOT.
Blanche DuBois, a schoolteacher from Laurel, Mississippi, arrives at the New Orleans apartment of her sister, Stella Kowalski. Despite the fact that Blanche seems to have fallen out of close contact with Stella, she intends to stay at Stella’s apartment for an unspecified but likely lengthy period of time, given the large trunk she has with her. Blanche tells Stella that she lost Belle Reve, their ancestral home, following the death of all their remaining relatives. She also mentions that she has been given a leave of absence from her teaching position because of her bad nerves.
Though Blanche does not seem to have enough money to afford a hotel, she is disdainful of the cramped quarters of the Kowalskis’ two-room apartment and of the apartment’s location in a noisy, diverse, working-class neighborhood. Blanche’s social condescension wins her the instant dislike of Stella’s husband, an auto-parts supply man of Polish descent named Stanley Kowalski. It is clear that Stella was happy to leave behind her the social pretensions of her background in exchange for the sexual gratification she gets from her husband; she even is pregnant with his baby. Stanley immediately distrusts Blanche to the extent that he suspects her of having cheated Stella out of her share of the family inheritance. In the process of defending herself to Stanley, Blanche reveals that Belle Reve was lost due to a foreclosed mortgage, a disclosure that signifies the dire nature of Blanche’s financial circumstances. Blanche’s heavy drinking, which she attempts to conceal from her sister and brother-in-law, is another sign that all is not well with Blanche.
The unhappiness that accompanies the animal magnetism of Stella and Stanley’s marriage reveals itself when Stanley hosts a drunken poker game with his male friends at the apartment. Blanche gets under Stanley’s skin, especially when she starts to win the affections of his close friend Mitch. After Mitch has been absent for a while, speaking with Blanche in the bedroom, Stanley erupts, storms into the bedroom, and throws the radio out of the window. When Stella yells at Stanley and defends Blanche, Stanley beats her. The men pull him off, the poker game breaks up, and Blanche and Stella escape to their upstairs neighbor Eunice’s apartment. A short while later, Stanley is remorseful and cries up to Stella to forgive him. To Blanche’s alarm, Stella returns to Stanley and embraces him passionately. Mitch meets Blanche outside of the Kowalski flat and comforts her in her distress.
The next day, Blanche tries to convince Stella to leave Stanley for a better man whose social status equals Stella’s. Blanche suggests that she and Stella contact a millionaire named Shep Huntleigh for help escaping from New Orleans; when Stella laughs at her, Blanche reveals that she is completely broke. Stanley walks in as Blanche is making fun of him and secretly overhears Blanche and Stella’s conversation. Later, he threatens Blanche with hints that he has heard rumors of her disreputable past. She is visibly dismayed.
While Blanche is alone in the apartment one evening, waiting for Mitch to pick her up for a date, a teenage boy comes by to collect money for the newspaper. Blanche doesn’t have any money for him, but she hits on him and gives him a lustful kiss. Soon after the boy departs, Mitch arrives, and they go on their date. When Blanche returns, she is exhausted and clearly has been uneasy for the entire night about the rumors Stanley mentioned earlier. In a surprisingly sincere heart-to-heart discussion with Mitch, Blanche reveals the greatest tragedy of her past. Years ago, her young husband committed suicide after she discovered and chastised him for his homosexuality. Mitch describes his own loss of a former love, and he tells Blanche that they need each other.
When the next scene begins, about one month has passed. It is the afternoon of Blanche’s birthday. Stella is preparing a dinner for Blanche, Mitch, Stanley, and herself, when Stanley comes in to tell her that he has learned news of Blanche’s sordid past. He says that after losing the DuBois mansion, Blanche moved into a fleabag motel from which she was eventually evicted because of her numerous sexual liaisons. Also, she was fired from her job as a schoolteacher because the principal discovered that she was having an affair with a teenage student. Stella is horrified to learn that Stanley has told Mitch these stories about Blanche.
The birthday dinner comes and goes, but Mitch never arrives. Stanley indicates to Blanche that he is aware of her past. For a birthday present, he gives her a one-way bus ticket back to Laurel. Stanley’s cruelty so disturbs Stella that it appears the Kowalski household is about to break up, but the onset of Stella’s labor prevents the imminent fight.
Several hours later, Blanche, drunk, sits alone in the apartment. Mitch, also drunk, arrives and repeats all he’s learned from Stanley. Eventually Blanche confesses that the stories are true, but she also reveals the need for human affection she felt after her husband’s death. Mitch tells Blanche that he can never marry her, saying she isn’t fit to live in the same house as his mother. Having learned that Blanche is not the chaste lady she pretended to be, Mitch tries to have sex with Blanche, but she forces him to leave by yelling “Fire!” to attract the attention of passersby outside.
Later, Stanley returns from the hospital to find Blanche even more drunk. She tells him that she will soon be leaving New Orleans with her former suitor Shep Huntleigh, who is now a millionaire. Stanley knows that Blanche’s story is entirely in her imagination, but he is so happy about his baby that he proposes they each celebrate their good fortune. Blanche spurns Stanley, and things grow contentious. When she tries to step past him, he refuses to move out of her way. Blanche becomes terrified to the point that she smashes a bottle on the table and threatens to smash Stanley in the face. Stanley grabs her arm and says that it’s time for the “date” they’ve had set up since Blanche’s arrival. Blanche resists, but Stanley uses his physical strength to overcome her, and he carries her to bed. The pulsing music indicates that Stanley rapes Blanche.
The next scene takes place weeks later, as Stella and her neighbor Eunice pack Blanche’s bags. Blanche is in the bath, and Stanley plays poker with his buddies in the front room. A doctor will arrive soon to take Blanche to an insane asylum, but Blanche believes she is leaving to join her millionaire. Stella confesses to Eunice that she simply cannot allow herself to believe Blanche’s assertion that Stanley raped her. When Blanche emerges from the bathroom, her deluded talk makes it clear that she has lost her grip on reality.
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The doctor arrives with a nurse, and Blanche initially panics and struggles against them when they try to take her away. Stanley and his friends fight to subdue Blanche, while Eunice holds Stella back to keep her from interfering. Mitch begins to cry. Finally, the doctor approaches Blanche in a gentle manner and convinces her to leave with him. She allows him to lead her away and does not look back or say goodbye as she goes. Stella sobs with her child in her arms, and Stanley comforts her with loving words and caresses.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Blanche DuBois - Stella’s older sister, who was a high school English teacher in Laurel, Mississippi, until she was forced to leave her post. Blanche is a loquacious and fragile woman around the age of thirty. After losing Belle Reve, the DuBois family home, Blanche arrives in New Orleans at the Kowalski apartment and eventually reveals that she is completely destitute. Though she has strong sexual urges and has had many lovers, she puts on the airs of a woman who has never known indignity. She avoids reality, preferring to live in her own imagination. As the play progresses, Blanche’s instability grows along with her misfortune. Stanley sees through Blanche and finds out the details of her past, destroying her relationship with his friend Mitch. Stanley also destroys what’s left of Blanche by raping her and then having her committed to an insane asylum.
Stella Kowalski - Blanche’s younger sister, about twenty-five years old and of a mild disposition that visibly sets her apart from her more vulgar neighbors. Stella possesses the same timeworn aristocratic heritage as Blanche, but she jumped the sinking ship in her late teens and left Mississippi for New Orleans. There, Stella married lower-class Stanley, with whom she shares a robust sexual relationship. Stella’s union with Stanley is both animal and spiritual, violent but renewing. After Blanche’s arrival, Stella is torn between her sister and her husband. Eventually, she stands by Stanley, perhaps in part because she gives birth to his child near the play’s end. While she loves and pities Blanche, she cannot bring herself to believe Blanche’s accusations that Stanley dislikes Blanche, and she eventually dismisses Blanche’s claim that Stanley raped her. Stella’s denial of reality at the play’s end shows that she has more in common with her sister than she thinks.
Stanley Kowalski - The husband of Stella. Stanley is the epitome of vital force. He is loyal to his friends, passionate to his wife, and heartlessly cruel to Blanche. With his Polish ancestry, he represents the new, heterogeneous America. He sees himself as a social leveler, and wishes to destroy Blanche’s social pretensions. Around thirty years of age, Stanley, who fought in World War II, now works as an auto-parts salesman. Practicality is his forte, and he has no patience for Blanche’s distortions of the truth. He lacks ideals and imagination. By the play’s end, he is a disturbing degenerate: he beats his wife and rapes his sister-in-law. Horrifyingly, he shows no remorse. Yet, Blanche is an outcast from society, while Stanley is the proud family man.
Harold “Mitch” Mitchell - Stanley’s army friend, coworker, and poker buddy, who courts Blanche until he finds out that she lied to him about her sordid past. Mitch, like Stanley, is around thirty years of age. Though he is clumsy, sweaty, and has unrefined interests like muscle building, Mitch is more sensitive and more gentlemanly than Stanley and his other friends, perhaps because he lives with his mother, who is slowly dying. Blanche and Mitch are an unlikely match: Mitch doesn’t fit the bill of the chivalric hero, the man Blanche dreams will come to rescue her. Nevertheless, they bond over their lost loves, and when the doctor takes Blanche away against her will, Mitch is the only person present besides Stella who despairs over the tragedy.
Eunice - Stella’s friend, upstairs neighbor, and landlady. Eunice and her husband, Steve, represent the low-class, carnal life that Stella has chosen for herself. Like Stella, Eunice accepts her husband’s affections despite his physical abuse of her. At the end of the play, when Stella hesitates to stay with Stanley at Blanche’s expense, Eunice forbids Stella to question her decision and tells her she has no choice but to disbelieve Blanche.
Allan Grey - The young man with poetic aspirations whom Blanche fell in love with and married as a teenager. One afternoon, she discovered Allan in bed with an older male friend. That evening at a ball, after she announced her disgust at his homosexuality, he ran outside and shot himself in the head. Allan’s death, which marked the end of Blanche’s sexual innocence, has haunted her ever since. Long dead by the time of the play’s action, Allan never appears onstage.
A Young Collector - A teenager who comes to the Kowalskis’ door to collect for the newspaper when Blanche is home alone. The boy leaves bewildered after Blanche hits on him and gives him a passionate farewell kiss. He embodies Blanche’s obsession with youth and presumably reminds her of her teenage love, the young poet Allan Grey, whom she married and lost to suicide. Blanche’s flirtation with the newspaper collector also displays her unhealthy sexual preoccupation with teenage boys, which we learn of later in the play.
Shep Huntleigh - A former suitor of Blanche’s whom she met again a year before her arrival in New Orleans while vacationing in Miami. Despite the fact that Shep is married, Blanche hopes he will provide the financial support for her and Stella to escape from Stanley. As Blanche’s mental stability deteriorates, her fantasy that Shep is coming to sweep her away becomes more and more real to her. Shep never appears onstage.
Steve - Stanley’s poker buddy who lives upstairs with his wife, Eunice. Like Stanley, Steve is a brutish, hot-blooded, physically fit male and an abusive husband.
Pablo - Stanley’s poker buddy. Like Stanley and Steve, Steve is physically fit and brutish. Pablo is Hispanic, and his friendship with Steve, Stanley, and Mitch emphasizes the culturally diverse nature of their neighborhood.
A Negro Woman - In Scene One, the Negro woman is sitting on the steps talking to Eunice when Blanche arrives, and she finds Stanley’s openly sexual gestures toward Stella hilarious. Later, in Scene Ten, we see her scurrying across the stage in the night as she rifles through a prostitute’s lost handbag.
A Doctor - At the play’s finale, the doctor arrives to whisk Blanche off to an asylum. He and the nurse initially seem to be heartless institutional caretakers, but, in the end, the doctor appears more kindly as he takes off his jacket and leads Blanche away. This image of the doctor ironically conforms to Blanche’s notions of the chivalric Southern gentleman who will offer her salvation.
A Mexican Woman - A vendor of Mexican funeral decorations who frightens Blanche by issuing the plaintive call “Flores para los muertos,” which means “Flowers for the dead.”
A Nurse - Also called the “Matron,” she accompanies the doctor to collect Blanche and bring her to an institution. She possesses a severe, unfeminine manner and has a talent for subduing hysterical patients.
Shaw - A supply man who is Stanley’s coworker and his source for stories of Blanche’s disreputable past in Laurel, Mississippi. Shaw travels regularly through Laurel.
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Prostitute - Moments before Stanley rapes Blanche, the back wall of the Kowalskis’ apartment becomes transparent, and Blanche sees a prostitute in the street being pursued by a male drunkard. The prostitute’s situation evokes Blanche’s own predicament. After the prostitute and the drunkard pass, the Negro woman scurries by with the prostitute’s lost handbag in hand.
THEMES.
Fantasy’s Inability to Overcome Reality
Although Williams’s protagonist in A Streetcar Named Desire is the romantic Blanche DuBois, the play is a work of social realism. Blanche explains to Mitch that she fibs because she refuses to accept the hand fate has dealt her. Lying to herself and to others allows her to make life appear as it should be rather than as it is. Stanley, a practical man firmly grounded in the physical world, disdains Blanche’s fabrications and does everything he can to unravel them. The antagonistic relationship between Blanche and Stanley is a struggle between appearances and reality. It propels the play’s plot and creates an overarching tension. Ultimately, Blanche’s attempts to remake her own and Stella’s existences—to rejuvenate her life and to save Stella from a life with Stanley—fail.
One of the main ways Williams dramatizes fantasy’s inability to overcome reality is through an exploration of the boundary between exterior and interior. The set of the play consists of the two-room Kowalski apartment and the surrounding street. Williams’s use of a flexible set that allows the street to be seen at the same time as the interior of the home expresses the notion that the home is not a domestic sanctuary. The Kowalskis’ apartment cannot be a self-defined world that is impermeable to greater reality. The characters leave and enter the apartment throughout the play, often bringing with them the problems they encounter in the larger environment. For example, Blanche refuses to leave her prejudices against the working class behind her at the door. The most notable instance of this effect occurs just before Stanley rapes Blanche, when the back wall of the apartment becomes transparent to show the struggles occurring on the street, foreshadowing the violation that is about to take place in the Kowalskis’ home.
Though reality triumphs over fantasy in A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams suggests that fantasy is an important and useful tool. At the end of the play, Blanche’s retreat into her own private fantasies enables her to partially shield herself from reality’s harsh blows. Blanche’s insanity emerges as she retreats fully into herself, leaving the objective world behind in order to avoid accepting reality. In order to escape fully, however, Blanche must come to perceive the exterior world as that which she imagines in her head. Thus, objective reality is not an antidote to Blanche’s fantasy world; rather, Blanche adapts the exterior world to fit her delusions. In both the physical and the psychological realms, the boundary between fantasy and reality is permeable. Blanche’s final, deluded happiness suggests that, to some extent, fantasy is a vital force at play in every individual’s experience, despite reality’s inevitable triumph.

The Relationship between Sex and Death
Blanche’s fear of death manifests itself in her fears of aging and of lost beauty. She refuses to tell anyone her true age or to appear in harsh light that will reveal her faded looks. She seems to believe that by continually asserting her sexuality, especially toward men younger than herself, she will be able to avoid death and return to the world of teenage bliss she experienced before her husband’s suicide.
However, beginning in Scene One, Williams suggests that Blanche’s sexual history is in fact a cause of her downfall. When she first arrives at the Kowalskis’, Blanche says she rode a streetcar named Desire, then transferred to a streetcar named Cemeteries, which brought her to a street named Elysian Fields. This journey, the precursor to the play, allegorically represents the trajectory of Blanche’s life. The Elysian Fields are the land of the dead in Greek mythology. Blanche’s lifelong pursuit of her sexual desires has led to her eviction from Belle Reve, her ostracism from Laurel, and, at the end of the play, her expulsion from society at large.
Sex leads to death for others Blanche knows as well. Throughout the play, Blanche is haunted by the deaths of her ancestors, which she attributes to their “epic fornications.” Her husband’s suicide results from her disapproval of his homosexuality. The message is that indulging one’s desire in the form of unrestrained promiscuity leads to forced departures and unwanted ends. In Scene Nine, when the Mexican woman appears selling “flowers for the dead,” Blanche reacts with horror because the woman announces Blanche’s fate. Her fall into madness can be read as the ending brought about by her dual flaws—her inability to act appropriately on her desire and her desperate fear of human mortality. Sex and death are intricately and fatally linked in Blanche’s experience.

Dependence on Men
A Streetcar Named Desire presents a sharp critique of the way the institutions and attitudes of postwar America placed restrictions on women’s lives. Williams uses Blanche’s and Stella’s dependence on men to expose and critique the treatment of women during the transition from the old to the new South. Both Blanche and Stella see male companions as their only means to achieve happiness, and they depend on men for both their sustenance and their self-image. Blanche recognizes that Stella could be happier without her physically abusive husband, Stanley. Yet, the alternative Blanche proposes—contacting Shep Huntleigh for financial support—still involves complete dependence on men. When Stella chooses to remain with Stanley, she chooses to rely on, love, and believe in a man instead of her sister. Williams does not necessarily criticize Stella—he makes it quite clear that Stanley represents a much more secure future than Blanche does.
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For herself, Blanche sees marriage to Mitch as her means of escaping destitution. Men’s exploitation of Blanche’s sexuality has left her with a poor reputation. This reputation makes Blanche an unattractive marriage prospect, but, because she is destitute, Blanche sees marriage as her only possibility for survival. When Mitch rejects Blanche because of Stanley’s gossip about her reputation, Blanche immediately thinks of another man—the millionaire Shep Huntleigh—who might rescue her. Because Blanche cannot see around her dependence on men, she has no realistic conception of how to rescue herself. Blanche does not realize that her dependence on men will lead to her downfall rather than her salvation. By relying on men, Blanche puts her fate in the hands of others.

MOTIFS.

Light
Throughout the play, Blanche avoids appearing in direct, bright light, especially in front of her suitor, Mitch. She also refuses to reveal her age, and it is clear that she avoids light in order to prevent him from seeing the reality of her fading beauty. In general, light also symbolizes the reality of Blanche’s past. She is haunted by the ghosts of what she has lost—her first love, her purpose in life, her dignity, and the genteel society (real or imagined) of her ancestors.
Blanche covers the exposed lightbulb in the Kowalski apartment with a Chinese paper lantern, and she refuses to go on dates with Mitch during the daytime or to well-lit locations. Mitch points out Blanche’s avoidance of light in Scene Nine, when he confronts her with the stories Stanley has told him of her past. Mitch then forces Blanche to stand under the direct light. When he tells her that he doesn’t mind her age, just her deceitfulness, Blanche responds by saying that she doesn’t mean any harm. She believes that magic, rather than reality, represents life as it ought to be. Blanche’s inability to tolerate light means that her grasp on reality is also nearing its end.
In Scene Six, Blanche tells Mitch that being in love with her husband, Allan Grey, was like having the world revealed in bright, vivid light. Since Allan’s suicide, Blanche says, the bright light has been missing. Through all of Blanche’s inconsequential sexual affairs with other men, she has experienced only dim light. Bright light, therefore, represents Blanche’s youthful sexual innocence, while poor light represents her sexual maturity and disillusionment.

Bathing
Throughout A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche bathes herself. Her sexual experiences have made her a hysterical woman, but these baths, as she says, calm her nerves. In light of her efforts to forget and shed her illicit past in the new community of New Orleans, these baths represent her efforts to cleanse herself of her odious history. Yet, just as she cannot erase the past, her bathing is never done. Stanley also turns to water to undo a misdeed when he showers after beating Stella. The shower serves to soothe his violent temper; afterward, he leaves the bathroom feeling remorseful and calls out longingly for his wife.

Drunkenness
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Both Stanley and Blanche drink excessively at various points during the play. Stanley’s drinking is social: he drinks with his friends at the bar, during their poker games, and to celebrate the birth of his child. Blanche’s drinking, on the other hand, is anti-social, and she tries to keep it a secret. She drinks on the sly in order to withdraw from harsh reality. A state of drunken stupor enables her to take a flight of imagination, such as concocting a getaway with Shep Huntleigh. For both characters, drinking leads to destructive behavior: Stanley commits domestic violence, and Blanche deludes herself. Yet Stanley is able to rebound from his drunken escapades, whereas alcohol augments Blanche’s gradual departure from sanity.
SYMBOLS.

Shadows and Cries
As Blanche and Stanley begin to quarrel in Scene Ten, various oddly shaped shadows begin to appear on the wall behind her. Discordant noises and jungle cries also occur as Blanche begins to descend into madness. All of these effects combine to dramatize Blanche’s final breakdown and departure from reality in the face of Stanley’s physical threat. When she loses her sanity in her final struggle against Stanley, Blanche retreats entirely into her own world. Whereas she originally colors her perception of reality according to her wishes, at this point in the play she ignores reality altogether.

The Varsouviana Polka
The Varsouviana is the polka tune to which Blanche and her young husband, Allen Grey, were dancing when she last saw him alive. Earlier that day, she had walked in on him in bed with an older male friend. The three of them then went out dancing together, pretending that nothing had happened. In the middle of the Varsouviana, Blanche turned to Allen and told him that he “disgusted” her. He ran away and shot himself in the head.
The polka music plays at various points in A Streetcar Named Desire, when Blanche is feeling remorse for Allen’s death. The first time we hear it is in Scene One, when Stanley meets Blanche and asks her about her husband. Its second appearance occurs when Blanche tells Mitch the story of Allen Grey. From this point on, the polka plays increasingly often, and it always drives Blanche to distraction. She tells Mitch that it ends only after she hears the sound of a gunshot in her head.
The polka and the moment it evokes represent Blanche’s loss of innocence. The suicide of the young husband Blanche loved dearly was the event that triggered her mental decline. Since then, Blanche hears the Varsouviana whenever she panics and loses her grip on reality.

“It’s Only a Paper Moon”
In Scene Seven, Blanche sings this popular ballad while she bathes. The song’s lyrics describe the way love turns the world into a “phony” fantasy. The speaker in the song says that if both lovers believe in their imagined reality, then it’s no longer “make-believe.” These lyrics sum up Blanche’s approach to life. She believes that her fibbing is only her means of enjoying a better way of life and is therefore essentially harmless.
As Blanche sits in the tub singing “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” Stanley tells Stella the details of Blanche’s sexually corrupt past. Williams ironically juxtaposes Blanche’s fantastical understanding of herself with Stanley’s description of Blanche’s real nature. In reality, Blanche is a sham who feigns propriety and sexual modesty. Once Mitch learns the truth about Blanche, he can no longer believe in Blanche’s tricks and lies.

Meat
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In Scene One, Stanley throws a package of meat at his adoring Stella for her to catch. The action sends Eunice and the Negro woman into peals of laughter. Presumably, they’ve picked up on the sexual innuendo behind Stanley’s gesture. In hurling the meat at Stella, Stanley states the sexual proprietorship he holds over her. Stella’s delight in catching Stanley’s meat signifies her sexual infatuation with him.
QUOTATION.
I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is a one hundred percent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don’t ever call me a Polack.

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Blanche makes derogatory and ignorant remarks about Stanley’s Polish ethnicity throughout the play, implying that it makes him stupid and coarse. In Scene Eight, Stanley finally snaps and speaks these words, correcting Blanche’s many misapprehensions and forcefully exposing her as an uninformed bigot. His declaration of being a proud American carries great thematic weight, for Stanley does indeed represent the new American society, which is composed of upwardly mobile immigrants. Blanche is a relic in the new America. The Southern landed aristocracy from which she assumes her sense of superiority no longer has a viable presence in the American economy, so Blanche is disenfranchised monetarily and socially.

Iris Murdoch. The Black Prince (1973).

FULL TITLE • The Black Prince

AUTHOR • Iris Murdoch

TYPE OF WORK • Novel

GENRE • Modernist Novel

LANGUAGE • English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN • England, 1972

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION • 1973

PUBLISHER • Viking Press

NARRATOR • Bradley Pearson

POINT OF VIEW • First Person

TONE • Ironic

TENSE • Past tense

SETTING (TIME) • Early 1970s

SETTING (PLACE) • London, England

PROTAGONIST • Bradley Pearson

MAJOR CONFLICT • Bradley's need to break out of his writing block

RISING ACTION • Arnold Baffin's fight with his wife; Tutorials of Julian; Date at the opera with Julian Rachel's attempted seduction

CLIMAX • Arnold Baffin's murder

FALLING ACTION • Bradley's trial and conviction; Bradley's writing of his novel; Bradley's death

THEMES • Art and Truth; Eros; Randomness of Life

MOTIFS • Marriage; Hamlet; Boots and Feet

SYMBOLS • Kites; Priscilla's jewels; Der Rosenkavalier

FORESHADOWING • Arnold's initial call to Bradley; Rachel's prediction of her fire; Bradley's threatening note to Arnold; Der Rosenkavalier; Bradley's destruction of Arnold's books

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BIOGRAPHY.
Murdoch was born at 59 Blessington Street, Dublin, Ireland, on July 15, 1919. Her father, Wills John Hughes Murdoch came from a mainly Presbyterian sheep farming family from Hillhall, County Down (near Belfast). Her mother, Irene Alice Richardson, who had trained as a singer until Iris' birth, was from a middle class Anglican Church of Ireland family from Dublin. At a young age, Murdoch's parents moved her to London where her father worked in the Civil Service. Murdoch was educated in progressive schools, firstly, at the Froebel Demonstration School, and then as a boarder at the Badminton School in Bristol in 1932. She went on to read classics, ancient history, and philosophy at Somerville College, Oxford, and philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she studied under Ludwig Wittgenstein. In 1948, she became a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.
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She wrote her first novel, Under The Net in 1954, having previously published essays on philosophy, including the first study in English of Jean-Paul Sartre. It was at Oxford in 1956 that she met and married John Bayley, a professor of English literature and also a novelist. She went on to produce 25 more novels and other works of philosophy and drama until 1995, when she began to suffer the early effects of Alzheimer's disease, which she at first attributed to writer's block. She died at 79 in 1999.

PLOT.
The Black Prince tells the story of Bradley Pearson, a fifty-eight year old man who has previously published three books. In order to write a great novel, he quits his lifelong job as a tax inspector, but soon finds himself struck with writer's block. He decides to spend the summer in a rented cottage on the coast for inspiration.
Before he can leave for the coast, however, a series of events keeps him home. When his detested ex-wife's brother, Francis visits him he finds out that his ex wife, Christian, has returned to London. He is called to intervene in a marital dispute between his close friends, Arnold and Rachel Baffin. Arnold is a successful but unartistic writer. During the fight, Rachel Baffin hits her head on the fireplace poker, but is not dead, as Arnold initially fears. After leaving their house, Bradley runs into the Baffins' twenty-year-old daughter, Julian, by the subway station. She wants Bradley to teach her how to write. The next morning, Bradley's sister, Priscilla, unexpectedly arrives, because she has left her husband. She almost immediately tries to commit suicide with sleeping pills. During the confusion of her suicide attempt, for which all of the Baffins and Francis Marloe are present, Christian, Bradley's ex-wife, appears, but is taken away by Arnold before Bradley sees her.
After Priscilla gets back from the hospital, Bradley visits Christian in order to tell her to leave him alone. Bradley then goes to Bristol to pick up his sister's jewels. He is unable to do so, and finds that Priscilla's husband has a younger, pregnant mistress. Priscilla starts staying at Christian's house so Francis Marloe, a former doctor, can care for her. While all of this is happening, Arnold Baffin becomes interested in having an affair with Christian and Rachel Baffin becomes interested in sleeping with Bradley. During Rachel and Bradley's attempted lovemaking, however, he cannot perform sexually. He and Rachel later determine to become platonic friends.
Julian has been pestering Bradley to teach her about Hamlet and arrives one day for a tutorial. During the tutorial, Bradley falls passionately in love with her. He initially tries to keep his love secret. After becoming physically ill while watching Der Rosenkavalier with Julian however, he confesses his emotions. He tells Julian that he is forty-six, instead of fifty-eight. Julian considers the issue of his love thoughtfully. By the next morning, she has determined that she loves him. Julian later confesses her love to her parents. They respond by locking her in her room and yelling at Bradley. Despite Rachel and Arnold's anger, Bradley refuses to see that his love is inappropriate. When Julian sneaks away from her parents' house, she and Bradley meet and leave for his rented cottage.
On their first day away, Julian entertains romantic fantasies about marrying Bradley. Their initial attempts at lovemaking are not successful. The next day, Bradley finds out that Priscilla has killed herself. He keeps the news from Julian to maintain their bliss. When he returns home, he finds Julian dressed up as Hamlet. He drags her to the bed and makes violent love to her in such a rough way that Julian later weeps. Arnold finds them later that night and begs Julian to leave. He tells her of Priscilla's death and Bradley's true age. Julian seems confused, but refuses go. After her father leaves, she isolates herself in a separate bedroom to think, but is gone by the time Bradley wakes in the morning.
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Bradley goes back to London for Priscilla's funeral. He believes that Arnold stole Julian away in the night. Bradley cannot find her anywhere. Christian wants to start a relationship with Bradley, but he declines. Rachel tells Bradley that Julian left him freely because she learned of Bradley's recent sexual encounter with Rachel (Rachel had described the encounter in a letter that Arnold delivered). Bradley is so angry at Rachel's interference that he spitefully shows her a letter that Arnold wrote describing Arnold's love for Christian. Rachel is furious and vows never to forgive Bradley. A few days later, Bradley receives a letter from Julian. Despite her saying otherwise, he decides that she still loves him and that she is in Venice. He makes plans to go there. Before he can leave, however, Rachel calls and begs for his immediate assistance. After arriving at the Baffins' house, Bradley finds Arnold dead, having been hit with the same fire poker that once hit Rachel. When Bradley tries to cover up Rachel's crime, he is accused of it himself. He is later convicted because everyone believes that he killed Arnold out of envy. Bradley has written his novel from prison. In the final postscript of the book, the editor, P.Loxias, notes that soon after finishing the book, Bradley Pearson died of a fast growing cancer.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Bradley Pearson
Bradley Pearson is the main character of the novel and also the one who writes the majority of it. In the beginning of the book, Bradley is a cold, occasionally cruel man. Although he acts politely, his internal monologue usually reveals him to be much less polite than he appears. Much of his external behavior is shockingly rude, especially to Christian and Francis. Furthermore, his self-interested nature leads him to neglect his sister, Priscilla. Even when he hears that she has killed herself, he lacks the compassion and concern that one would normally feel for a sibling. Despite his unfriendly nature, Bradley is a compelling character because he changes throughout the book and also because he aspires, to some extent, to do good, primarily by writing a novel. Bradley's love of Julian changes him. Bradley's lengthy description of his love, at the beginning of Part Two, allows us to understand the nuances of his soul. With his heart fully exposed, it is difficult to dislike him, even if some of his behaviors are less than honorable. The way that Bradley keeps changing also makes him an intriguing figure. By the end of the book, he is a kinder, gentler soul, having experienced true love and after having seen the errors of his ways. Bradley is finally able to act selflessly, by not accusing Rachel of Arnold's murder. Bradley's ability to change and eventually realize his faults makes him a likeable character, despite his earlier bad deeds.
Julian Baffin
Julian is the twenty-year old daughter of Arnold and Rachel Baffin, with whom Bradley falls in love. Julian is characterized by youth and naïveté. She has never been a successful student, but suddenly decides that she wants to be a writer. Her lack of knowledge that Homer and Dante were poets, however, shows her sudden career goals to be romanticized dreams. The way that she falls in love with Bradley is equally so. In one of the opening scenes, she performs an exorcism to rid her recent boyfriend from her life, but after just one week she believes that she pictures marrying Bradley and living happily ever after. Such ideas are naïve and romantic. Were she involved with a man her own age and not Bradley, such naïveté would likely not be a proble
Her failure to understand the dynamics behind her relationship with Bradley is problematic. First, her cluelessness leads her to confess the affair to her parents. Furthermore, she cannot understand why they appear so angry about it. Later, she throws herself from a moving car to prove her love. While she is not seriously hurt, her youthful impetuous actions suggest trouble. Her illusions finally will be shattered when Bradley makes violent love to her, leaving her weeping. The lustfulness of his passion finally reveals to her the nature of Bradley's self and after she realizes it, she flees. Julian is a sympathetic character, but also a slightly foolish one. Furthermore, because Bradley is telling the story, Julian often comes across as sexually aggressive. As Bradley describes it, Julian almost initiated their affair by insisting that he become her teacher, inviting him to the opera, and coming over for a Hamlet tutorial. Despite Bradley's perceptions, Julian remains a naïve, not extraordinary girl who is unversed in the ways of love. Julian's youth, however, generally forgives her character faults.
Francis Marloe
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Francis Marloe's primary role in the novel is comic. Francis is a classic buffoon style character, characteristic of Greek comedy or Shakespeare. Francis is comic because he is pitiful and easy to be laughed at. The other characters laugh at him consistently and cruelly. Bradley Pearson's cruel treatment of Francis, in particular makes us want to sympathize with him. But even as we long to respect Francis, his constant fumbling makes it difficult to take him seriously. He longs to doctor Priscilla, for example, but he leaves her alone to get drunk with Bradley's homosexual neighbor, during which time Priscilla kills herself. Furthermore, in his explanation of the incident, Francis insists that the neighbor, Rigby, drugged the wine so Francis could not return, whereas it is more likely that Rigby and Francis were having sex. Francis's final postscript makes him look entirely silly. Francis's identity as a comic figure also comes from his pitiful background, being a doctor whose license was taken away for misuse of pharmaceuticals. Finally, his tendency to ingratiate himself to everyone makes him easy to laugh at. In many ways Francis is a sad character, often talking about the pain of his life, but still his loose emotions serve for comic effect.
THEMES.

Art as a Vehicle for Truth
As Loxias and Bradley Pearson explain in their forewords and postscripts, art is one of the rare venues that allows for the articulation of truth. As Loxias says in the conclusion of the novel, "art tells the only truth that ultimately matters." As a follower of the ideas of Plato, Iris Murdoch believes that the world of everyday life is a world of illusions, behind which exists a world of truth, containing "ideal forms". When one is finally able to see the world of ideal forms, one is glimpsing truth. In a realm with both illusory and "true" worlds, art holds a special place, because through it an artist is able to bring viewers out of the illusory plane and into the true one. Art serves as a fundamental philosophical tool that can alert the world to higher meanings in life. Bradley Pearson's struggle to write a deeply meaningful novel in The Black Prince captures one artist's attempt to preserve a glimmer of truth for others. Although Pearson is struck by writer's block for most of the novel, his experience of Eros allows him to create the ultimate master work. In doing so, as P.Loxias (the God Apollo) suggests, he is able to bring truth to us, the readers.

Eros's Facilitation of Expression
Bradley Pearson's experience of Eros gives him the ability to write. "Eros" refers both to erotic love and to a deeper lust for power, love, and desire. Bradley's experience of Eros originally starts as pure love for Julian Baffin: he becomes happy and pleasant after feeling it. As his love turns towards lust, however, he begins to refer to his Eros as "black Eros," referencing the negative qualities that overtake him during his obsession with Julian. Despite the potentially destructive power of Eros that Bradley experiences, it still is the avenue that allows him to glimpse truth. After such a sudden and intense voyage with Eros, Bradley emerges changed and is finally able to express truth through the creation of art.

The Randomness of Life
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Iris Murdoch was not an existentialist, but she shares the existentialist idea that life has no greater purpose than what individual humans designate. For Murdoch and existentialists, there is no God who has preordained one's life path before one is born. Instead, one is born with freedom to create whatever type of life that one chooses. Despite the ability to be free, most people generally prefer to cling to a preordained meaning by believing in God, or by assigning meaning to everything that happens to them. In an effort to counter this tendency, Murdoch attempts to argue for the random nature of life in her novel. For example, Bradley and Julian randomly meet twice, but there is no sense that their coincidental meetings were meant to be. Likewise, a series of random arrivals and meetings drive the entire plot of her novel. These events are what make up people's lives, but they were not each individually plotted by the Fates. As Murdoch demonstrates, life is just a series of random accidents connected together.

MOTIFS.
Marriage
The Black Prince begins and ends with a domestic quarrel between a married couple. During the novel, Murdoch analyzes the institution of marriage by looking at it through three different couples. For each of these couples, marriage fails. Furthermore, in two of the marriages, Priscilla's and Roger's, and Rachel's and Arnold's, the marriage proves fatal; one of the partners is dead by the end of the book. Given the failure of marriages in her novel, Murdoch suggests that it is a consistently painful institution, which might be better avoided. Bradley Pearson himself articulates a similar perspective when he suggests that the state of being married is inconsistent with a human's natural desire and that marriage generally leads one towards a state of perpetual loneliness.

Hamlet
Hamlet is major motif in the novel. Hamlet's characters, text, and themes recur several times. The play primarily appears because Julian Baffin wants to study Hamlet, so she keeps asking Bradley to teach it to her. By explaining it to Julian, Bradley is able to articulate his interpretation of what Hamlet actually means. The theme in Hamlet that is most important to The Black Prince is that of identity and the ability to create one's identity through the use of words. As Bradley Pearson writes his narrative, he struggles with this issue, which may be the reason for which the novel is called The Black Prince—a title usually given to Hamlet. Hamlet's appearance in the novel also plays an important role in the growing rapport between Julian and Bradley, since their initial tutorial is a symbolic sex scene, and when Julian eventually dresses up as Hamlet, Bradley proceeds to make violent love to her. Murdoch's frequent references to Hamlet also indicate her textual allegiance to Shakespearian techniques, which she greatly admired.

Feet and Boots
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Attention to Julian's feet is a motif that chronicles the sexual awakening of Bradley. The motif begins when Bradley sees Julian walking barefoot by the subway station. He proceeds to buy her a pair of purple boots, but not before his socks tumble out of his pocket and she puts them on. It is when she finally puts on the boots in the store, that Bradley feels his first swell of lust. Later during their Hamlet tutorial, Julian arrives wearing the same purple boots. As the room grows hot, she asks if she can take them off. She asks Bradley if her feet smell and he says that they do, but that he finds it "charming". As lust and unrealized love overwhelm him, Bradley comments that he could smell "her sweat, her feet, her breasts." Julian's exposure of her feet galvanizes Bradley's sexuality and serves as one of the symbolic steps towards the awakening of his love.

SYMBOLS.

Kites
When Bradley leaves Rachel's house after kissing her, Julian releases her kite and Bradley follows it faithfully as he walks to the subway station. The kite symbolizes the glimpse of the eternal that he is soon to get, but has not yet received. Bradley already has philosophized about the importance of kites when he was drunk in Bristol noting that kites are distant high things that are "an image of our condition." As he follows Julian's kite to the train station, he feels that it is the "bearer of some potent as yet unfathomed destiny." The kite's ability to fly and to see the world from a higher perspective is something that all humans aspire to and is something that Bradley shall be able to do by the end of the novel. The kite symbolizes the ability to see beyond the world of illusionary forms that dominates the everyday world.

Priscilla's jewels
Priscilla is obsessed with her jewels and believes that if she receives them, all of her troubles shall be over. This belief is false and represents the sad state of her life. Priscilla's jewels represent the one thing that she was able to gather during her married years. To some extent, they represent her sole legacy, since she has lived a childless existence. But it is a sad legacy, as jewels are cold, meaningless items whose primary significance is their monetary value. Priscilla's inability to see the illusionary and meaningless nature of these items is consistent with her inability to have seen, or looked for, a deeper layer of truth during her entire life. When Priscilla finally receives her longed after jewels, she not surprisingly does not feel happier. Her jewels are meaningless items that suggest the way in which she, and most people, waste their lives by not trying to aspire for more meaningful truths.

Der Rosenkavalier
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Der Rosenkavalier is Strauss's opera that Bradley and Julian attend. The opera has a special symbolic role because it contains sexual partners of grossly different ages, similar to the one in The Black Prince. Bradley's realization of the similarity between the opera and his own sexuality causes him to vomit after only several minutes of watching it. The color red that plays such a large role in the opera's setting also is significant in bringing out Bradley's silenced sexual desires. Although Bradley may not know this at the beginning of the novel, the plot of Der Rosenkavalier also foreshadows that of The Black Prince. While Bradley and Julian will have a love affair, as the Princess and Octavian did, both Julian and Octavian will eventually leave their older lovers and find partners their own age.
QUOTATION.
She had filled me with some previously unimaginable power which I knew I could and would use in my art. The deep causes of the universe, the stars, and the galaxies, the ultimate particles of matter, had fashioned these two things, my love and my art, as aspects of what was ultimately one and the same."

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Bradley makes this statement at the beginning of Part Two, just after he has fallen in love with Julian. In it, he links Eros, erotic love, and the ability to create art. The idea that both love and art can provide a sense of truth is a major theme in the book. Only after Bradley experiences love is he be able to break out of his writer's block and create his masterpiece. Even at the end of the novel, he will say that the story is a love story, not simply because he fell in love with Julian but because he was able to touch upon the essential quality of love in the universe which then led to his artistic creation.

Jerome David Salinger.
The Catcher in the Rye (1951).

FULL TITLE · The Catcher in the Rye

AUTHOR · J. D. Salinger

TYPE OF WORK · Novel

GENRE · Bildungsroman (coming-of-age novel)

LANGUAGE · English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · Late 1940s–early 1950s, New York

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · July 1951; parts of the novel appeared as short stories in Collier’s, December 1945, and in The New Yorker, December 1946

PUBLISHER · Little, Brown and Company

NARRATOR · Holden Caulfield, narrating from a psychiatric facility a few months after the events of the novel

POINT OF VIEW · Holden Caulfield narrates in the first person, describing what he himself sees and experiences, providing his own commentary on the events and people he describes.

TONE · Holden’s tone varies between disgust, cynicism, bitterness, and nostalgic longing, all expressed in a colloquial style.

TENSE · Past

SETTING (TIME) · A long weekend in the late 1940s or early 1950s

SETTING (PLACE) · Holden begins his story in Pennsylvania, at his former school, Pencey Prep. He then recounts his adventures in New York City.

PROTAGONIST · Holden Caulfield

MAJOR CONFLICT · The major conflict is within Holden’s psyche. Part of him wants to connect with other people on an adult level (and, more specifically, to have a sexual encounter), while part of him wants to reject the adult world as “phony,” and to retreat into his own memories of childhood.

RISING ACTION · Holden’s many attempts to connect with other people over the course of the novel bring his conflicting impulses—to interact with other people as an adult, or to retreat from them as a child—into direct conflict.

CLIMAX · Possible climaxes include Holden’s encounter with Sunny, when it becomes clear that he is unable to handle a sexual encounter; the end of his date with Sally, when he tries to get her to run away with him; and his departure from Mr. Antolini’s apartment, when he begins to question his characteristic mode of judging other people.

FALLING ACTION · Holden’s interactions with Phoebe, culminating in his tears of joy at watching Phoebe on the carousel (at the novel’s end he has retreated into childhood, away from the threats of adult intimacy and sexuality)

THEMES · Alienation as a form of self-protection; the painfulness of growing up; the phoniness of the adult world

MOTIFS · Relationships, intimacy, and sexuality; loneliness; lying and deception

SYMBOLS · The “catcher in the rye”; Holden’s red hunting hat; the Museum of Natural History; the ducks in the Central Park lagoon

FORESHADOWING · At the beginning of the novel, Holden hints that he has been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, the story of which is revealed over the course of the novel.

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BIOGRAPHY.
Jerome David "J. D." Salinger (1919-2010) was an American writer who won acclaim early in life. He led a very private life for more than a half-century. He published his final original work in 1965 and gave his last interview in 1980.

Salinger was raised in Manhattan and began writing short stories while in secondary school. Several were published in Story magazine in the early 1940s before he began serving in World War II. In 1948, his critically acclaimed story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" appeared in The New Yorker magazine, which became home to much of his later work. In 1951, his novel The Catcher in the Rye was an immediate popular success. His depiction of adolescent alienation and loss of innocence in the protagonist Holden Caulfield was influential, especially among adolescent readers. The novel remains widely read and controversial,[a] selling around 250,000 copies a year.

The success of The Catcher in the Rye led to public attention and scrutiny. Salinger became reclusive, publishing new work less frequently. He followed Catcher with a short story collection, Nine Stories (1953); a volume containing a novella and a short story, Franny and Zooey (1961); and a volume containing two novellas, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963). His last published work, a novella entitled "Hapworth 16, 1924", appeared in The New Yorker on June 19, 1965.

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Afterward, Salinger struggled with unwanted attention, including a legal battle in the 1980s with biographer Ian Hamilton and the release in the late 1990s of memoirs written by two people close to him: Joyce Maynard, an ex-lover; and Margaret Salinger, his daughter. In 1996, a small publisher announced a deal with Salinger to publish "Hapworth 16, 1924" in book form, but amid the ensuing publicity the release was indefinitely delayed. He made headlines around the globe in June 2009 when he filed a lawsuit against another writer for copyright infringement resulting from that writer's use of one of the characters from The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger died of natural causes on January 27, 2010, at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire. In November 2013, three unpublished stories by Salinger were briefly posted online. One of the stories, called "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls," is said to be a prequel to The Catcher in the Rye. It is stipulated in Salinger's will that these stories are not to be published until fifty years after his death.
PLOT.
The Catcher in the Rye is set around the 1950s and is narrated by a young man named Holden Caulfield. Holden is not specific about his location while he’s telling the story, but he makes it clear that he is undergoing treatment in a mental hospital or sanatorium. The events he narrates take place in the few days between the end of the fall school term and Christmas, when Holden is sixteen years old.
Holden’s story begins on the Saturday following the end of classes at the Pencey prep school in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. Pencey is Holden’s fourth school; he has already failed out of three others. At Pencey, he has failed four out of five of his classes and has received notice that he is being expelled, but he is not scheduled to return home to Manhattan until Wednesday. He visits his elderly history teacher, Spencer, to say goodbye, but when Spencer tries to reprimand him for his poor academic performance, Holden becomes annoyed.
Back in the dormitory, Holden is further irritated by his unhygienic neighbor, Ackley, and by his own roommate, Stradlater. Stradlater spends the evening on a date with Jane Gallagher, a girl whom Holden used to date and whom he still admires. During the course of the evening, Holden grows increasingly nervous about Stradlater’s taking Jane out, and when Stradlater returns, Holden questions him insistently about whether he tried to have sex with her. Stradlater teases Holden, who flies into a rage and attacks Stradlater. Stradlater pins Holden down and bloodies his nose. Holden decides that he’s had enough of Pencey and will go to Manhattan three days early, stay in a hotel, and not tell his parents that he is back.
On the train to New York, Holden meets the mother of one of his fellow Pencey students. Though he thinks this student is a complete “bastard,” he tells the woman made-up stories about how shy her son is and how well respected he is at school. When he arrives at Penn Station, he goes into a phone booth and considers calling several people, but for various reasons he decides against it. He gets in a cab and asks the cab driver where the ducks in Central Park go when the lagoon freezes, but his question annoys the driver. Holden has the cab driver take him to the Edmont Hotel, where he checks himself in.
From his room at the Edmont, Holden can see into the rooms of some of the guests in the opposite wing. He observes a man putting on silk stockings, high heels, a bra, a corset, and an evening gown. He also sees a man and a woman in another room taking turns spitting mouthfuls of their drinks into each other’s faces and laughing hysterically. He interprets the couple’s behavior as a form of sexual play and is both upset and aroused by it. After smoking a couple of cigarettes, he calls Faith Cavendish, a woman he has never met but whose number he got from an acquaintance at Princeton. Holden thinks he remembers hearing that she used to be a stripper, and he believes he can persuade her to have sex with him. He calls her, and though she is at first annoyed to be called at such a late hour by a complete stranger, she eventually suggests that they meet the next day. Holden doesn’t want to wait that long and winds up hanging up without arranging a meeting.
Holden goes downstairs to the Lavender Room and sits at a table, but the waiter realizes he’s a minor and refuses to serve him. He flirts with three women in their thirties, who seem like they’re from out of town and are mostly interested in catching a glimpse of a celebrity. Nevertheless, Holden dances with them and feels that he is “half in love” with the blonde one after seeing how well she dances. After making some wisecracks about his age, they leave, letting him pay their entire tab.
As Holden goes out to the lobby, he starts to think about Jane Gallagher and, in a flashback, recounts how he got to know her. They met while spending a summer vacation in Maine, played golf and checkers, and held hands at the movies. One afternoon, during a game of checkers, her stepfather came onto the porch where they were playing, and when he left Jane began to cry. Holden had moved to sit beside her and kissed her all over her face, but she wouldn’t let him kiss her on the mouth. That was the closest they came to “necking.”
Holden leaves the Edmont and takes a cab to Ernie’s jazz club in Greenwich Village. Again, he asks the cab driver where the ducks in Central Park go in the winter, and this cabbie is even more irritable than the first one. Holden sits alone at a table in Ernie’s and observes the other patrons with distaste. He runs into Lillian Simmons, one of his older brother’s former girlfriends, who invites him to sit with her and her date. Holden says he has to meet someone, leaves, and walks back to the Edmont.
Maurice, the elevator operator at the Edmont, offers to send a prostitute to Holden’s room for five dollars, and Holden agrees. A young woman, identifying herself as “Sunny,” arrives at his door. She pulls off her dress, but Holden starts to feel “peculiar” and tries to make conversation with her. He claims that he recently underwent a spinal operation and isn’t sufficiently recovered to have sex with her, but he offers to pay her anyway. She sits on his lap and talks dirty to him, but he insists on paying her five dollars and showing her the door. Sunny returns with Maurice, who demands another five dollars from Holden. When Holden refuses to pay, Maurice punches him in the stomach and leaves him on the floor, while Sunny takes five dollars from his wallet. Holden goes to bed.

He wakes up at ten o’clock on Sunday and calls Sally Hayes, an attractive girl whom he has dated in the past. They arrange to meet for a matinee showing of a Broadway play. He eats breakfast at a sandwich bar, where he converses with two nuns about Romeo and Juliet. He gives the nuns ten dollars. He tries to telephone Jane Gallagher, but her mother answers the phone, and he hangs up. He takes a cab to Central Park to look for his younger sister, Phoebe, but she isn’t there. He helps one of Phoebe’s schoolmates tighten her skate, and the girl tells him that Phoebe might be in the Museum of Natural History. Though he knows that Phoebe’s class wouldn’t be at the museum on a Sunday, he goes there anyway, but when he gets there he decides not to go in and instead takes a cab to the Biltmore Hotel to meet Sally.
Holden and Sally go to the play, and Holden is annoyed that Sally talks with a boy she knows from Andover afterward. At Sally’s suggestion, they go to Radio City to ice skate. They both skate poorly and decide to get a table instead. Holden tries to explain to Sally why he is unhappy at school, and actually urges her to run away with him to Massachusetts or Vermont and live in a cabin. When she refuses, he calls her a “pain in the ass” and laughs at her when she reacts angrily. She refuses to listen to his apologies and leaves.
Holden calls Jane again, but there is no answer. He calls Carl Luce, a young man who had been Holden’s student advisor at the Whooton School and who is now a student at Columbia University. Luce arranges to meet him for a drink after dinner, and Holden goes to a movie at Radio City to kill time. Holden and Luce meet at the Wicker Bar in the Seton Hotel. At Whooton, Luce had spoken frankly with some of the boys about sex, and Holden tries to draw him into a conversation about it once more. Luce grows irritated by Holden’s juvenile remarks about homosexuals and about Luce’s Chinese girlfriend, and he makes an excuse to leave early. Holden continues to drink Scotch and listen to the pianist and singer.
Quite drunk, Holden telephones Sally Hayes and babbles about their Christmas Eve plans. Then he goes to the lagoon in Central Park, where he used to watch the ducks as a child. It takes him a long time to find it, and by the time he does, he is freezing cold. He then decides to sneak into his own apartment building and wake his sister, Phoebe. He is forced to admit to Phoebe that he was kicked out of school, which makes her mad at him. When he tries to explain why he hates school, she accuses him of not liking anything. He tells her his fantasy of being “the catcher in the rye,” a person who catches little children as they are about to fall off of a cliff. Phoebe tells him that he has misremembered the poem that he took the image from: Robert Burns’s poem says “if a body meet a body, coming through the rye,” not “catch a body.”
Holden calls his former English teacher, Mr. Antolini, who tells Holden he can come to his apartment. Mr. Antolini asks Holden about his expulsion and tries to counsel him about his future. Holden can’t hide his sleepiness, and Mr. Antolini puts him to bed on the couch. Holden awakens to find Mr. Antolini stroking his forehead. Thinking that Mr. Antolini is making a homosexual overture, Holden hastily excuses himself and leaves, sleeping for a few hours on a bench at Grand Central Station.
Holden goes to Phoebe’s school and sends her a note saying that he is leaving home for good and that she should meet him at lunchtime at the museum. When Phoebe arrives, she is carrying a suitcase full of clothes, and she asks Holden to take her with him. He refuses angrily, and she cries and then refuses to speak to him. Knowing she will follow him, he walks to the zoo, and then takes her across the park to a carousel. He buys her a ticket and watches her ride it. It starts to rain heavily, but Holden is so happy watching his sister ride the carousel that he is close to tears.
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Holden ends his narrative here, telling the reader that he is not going to tell the story of how he went home and got “sick.” He plans to go to a new school in the fall and is cautiously optimistic about his future.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Holden Caulfield
The number of readers who have been able to identify with Holden and make him their hero is truly staggering. Something about his discontent, and his vivid way of expressing it, makes him resonate powerfully with readers who come from backgrounds completely different from his. It is tempting to inhabit his point of view and revel in his cantankerousness rather than try to deduce what is wrong with him. The obvious signs that Holden is a troubled and unreliable narrator are manifold: he fails out of four schools; he manifests complete apathy toward his future; he is hospitalized, and visited by a psychoanalyst, for an unspecified complaint; and he is unable to connect with other people. We know of two traumas in his past that clearly have something to do with his emotional state: the death of his brother Allie and the suicide of one of his schoolmates. But, even with that knowledge, Holden’s peculiarities cannot simply be explained away as symptoms of a readily identifiable disorder.
The most noticeable of Holden’s “peculiarities” is how extremely judgmental he is of almost everything and everybody. He criticizes and philosophizes about people who are boring, people who are insecure, and, above all, people who are “phony.” Holden carries this penchant for passing judgment to such an extreme that it often becomes extremely funny, such as when he speculates that people are so crass that someone will probably write “fuck you” on his tombstone. Holden applies the term “phony” not to people who are insincere but to those who are too conventional or too typical—for instance, teachers who “act like” teachers by assuming a different demeanor in class than they do in conversation, or people who dress and act like the other members of their social class. While Holden uses the label “phony” to imply that such people are superficial, his use of the term actually indicates that his own perceptions of other people are superficial. In almost every case, he rejects more complex judgments in favor of simple categorical ones.
A second facet of Holden’s personality that deserves comment is his attitude toward sex. Holden is a virgin, but he is very interested in sex, and, in fact, he spends much of the novel trying to lose his virginity. He feels strongly that sex should happen between people who care deeply about and respect one another, and he is upset by the realization that sex can be casual. Stradlater’s date with Jane doesn’t just make him jealous; it infuriates him to think of a girl he knows well having sex with a boy she doesn’t know well. Moreover, he is disturbed by the fact that he is aroused by women whom he doesn’t respect or care for, like the blonde tourist he dances with in the Lavender Room, or like Sally Hayes, whom he refers to as “stupid” even as he arranges a date with her. Finally, he is disturbed by the fact that he is aroused by kinky sexual behavior—particularly behavior that isn’t respectful of one’s sex partner, such as spitting in one’s partner’s face. Although Holden refers to such behavior as “crumby,” he admits that it is pretty fun, although he doesn’t think that it should be.
A brief note about Holden’s name: a “caul” is a membrane that covers the head of a fetus during birth. Thus, the caul in his name may symbolize the blindness of childhood or the inability of the child to see the complexity of the adult world. Holden’s full name might be read as Hold-on Caul-field: he wants to hold on to what he sees as his innocence, which is really his blindness.
Phoebe Caulfield
Before we meet Phoebe, Holden’s side of the story is all we’ve been given. He implies that he is the only noble character in a world of superficial and phony adults, and we must take him at his word. There seems to be a simple dichotomy between the sweet world of childhood innocence, where Holden wants to stay, and the cruel world of shallow adult hypocrisy, where he’s afraid to go. But Phoebe complicates his narrative. Instead of sympathizing with Holden’s refusal to grow up, she becomes angry with him. Despite being six years younger than her brother, Phoebe understands that growing up is a necessary process; she also understands that Holden’s refusal to mature reveals less about the outside world than it does about himself. Next to Phoebe, Holden’s stunted emotional maturity and stubborn outlook seem less charming and more foolish. Phoebe, then, serves as a guide and surrogate for the audience. Because she knows her brother better than we do, we trust her judgments about him. Our allegiance to the narrator weakens slightly once we hear her side of the story.
Phoebe makes Holden’s picture of childhood—of children romping through a field of rye—seem oversimplified, an idealized fantasy. Phoebe’s character challenges Holden’s view of the world: she is a child, but she does not fit into Holden’s romanticized vision of childlike innocence. Although she never explicitly states it, Phoebe seems to realize that Holden’s bitterness toward the rest of the world is really bitterness toward himself. She sees that he is a deeply sad, insecure young man who needs love and support. At the end of the book, when she shows up at the museum and demands to come with him, she seems not so much to need Holden as to understand that he needs her.
Mr. Antolini
Mr. Antolini is the adult who comes closest to reaching Holden. He manages to avoid alienating Holden, and being labeled a “phony,” because he doesn’t behave conventionally. He doesn’t speak to Holden in the persona of a teacher or an authority figure, as Mr. Spencer does. He doesn’t object to Holden’s calling him in the middle of the night or to Holden’s being drunk or smoking. Moreover, by opening his door to Holden on the spur of the moment, he shows no reservations about exposing his private self, with his messy apartment, his older wife with her hair in curlers, and his own heavy drinking.
Mr. Antolini’s advice to Holden about why he should apply himself to his studies is also unconventional. He recognizes that Holden is different from other students, and he validates Holden’s suffering and confusion by suggesting that one day they may be worth writing about. He represents education not as a path of conformity but as a means for Holden to develop his unique voice and to find the ideas that are most appropriate to him.
When Mr. Antolini touches Holden’s forehead as he sleeps, he may overstep a boundary in his display of concern and affection. However, there is little evidence to suggest that he is making a sexual overture, as Holden thinks, and much evidence that Holden misinterprets his action. Holden indicates in Chapter 19 that he is extremely nervous around possible homosexuals and that he worries about suddenly becoming one. We also know that he has been thinking about sex constantly since leaving Pencey. Finally, this is not the only scene in which Holden recoils from a physical approach. He is made very uncomfortable when Sunny pulls off her dress and sits in his lap. Even when his beloved sister puts her arms around him, he remarks that she may be a little too affectionate sometimes.
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Holden regrets his hasty judgment of Mr. Antolini, but this mistake is very important to him, because he finally starts to question his own practice of making snap judgments about people. Holden realizes that even if Mr. Antolini is gay, he can’t simply be dismissed as a “flit,” since he has also been kind and generous. Holden begins to acknowledge that Mr. Antolini is complex and that he has feelings.
THEMES.
Alienation as a Form of Self-Protection

Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. As he says to Mr. Spencer, he feels trapped on “the other side” of life, and he continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong.
As the novel progresses, we begin to perceive that Holden’s alienation is his way of protecting himself. Just as he wears his hunting hat (see “Symbols,” below) to advertise his uniqueness, he uses his isolation as proof that he is better than everyone else around him and therefore above interacting with them. The truth is that interactions with other people usually confuse and overwhelm him, and his cynical sense of superiority serves as a type of self-protection. Thus, Holden’s alienation is the source of what little stability he has in his life.
As readers, we can see that Holden’s alienation is the cause of most of his pain. He never addresses his own emotions directly, nor does he attempt to discover the source of his troubles. He desperately needs human contact and love, but his protective wall of bitterness prevents him from looking for such interaction. Alienation is both the source of Holden’s strength and the source of his problems. For example, his loneliness propels him into his date with Sally Hayes, but his need for isolation causes him to insult her and drive her away. Similarly, he longs for the meaningful connection he once had with Jane Gallagher, but he is too frightened to make any real effort to contact her. He depends upon his alienation, but it destroys him.

The Painfulness of Growing Up
According to most analyses, The Catcher in the Rye is a bildungsroman, a novel about a young character’s growth into maturity. While it is appropriate to discuss the novel in such terms, Holden Caulfield is an unusual protagonist for a bildungsroman because his central goal is to resist the process of maturity itself. As his thoughts about the Museum of Natural History demonstrate, Holden fears change and is overwhelmed by complexity. He wants everything to be easily understandable and eternally fixed, like the statues of Eskimos and Indians in the museum. He is frightened because he is guilty of the sins he criticizes in others, and because he can’t understand everything around him. But he refuses to acknowledge this fear, expressing it only in a few instances—for example, when he talks about sex and admits that “[s]ex is something I just don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t” (Chapter 9).
Instead of acknowledging that adulthood scares and mystifies him, Holden invents a fantasy that adulthood is a world of superficiality and hypocrisy (“phoniness”), while childhood is a world of innocence, curiosity, and honesty. Nothing reveals his image of these two worlds better than his fantasy about the catcher in the rye: he imagines childhood as an idyllic field of rye in which children romp and play; adulthood, for the children of this world, is equivalent to death—a fatal fall over the edge of a cliff. His created understandings of childhood and adulthood allow Holden to cut himself off from the world by covering himself with a protective armor of cynicism. But as the book progresses, Holden’s experiences, particularly his encounters with Mr. Antolini and Phoebe, reveal the shallowness of his conceptions.

The Phoniness of the Adult World
“Phoniness,” which is probably the most famous phrase from The Catcher in the Rye, is one of Holden’s favorite concepts. It is his catch-all for describing the superficiality, hypocrisy, pretension, and shallowness that he encounters in the world around him. In Chapter 22, just before he reveals his fantasy of the catcher in the rye, Holden explains that adults are inevitably phonies, and, what’s worse, they can’t see their own phoniness. Phoniness, for Holden, stands as an emblem of everything that’s wrong in the world around him and provides an excuse for him to withdraw into his cynical isolation.
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Though oversimplified, Holden’s observations are not entirely inaccurate. He can be a highly insightful narrator, and he is very aware of superficial behavior in those around him. Throughout the novel he encounters many characters who do seem affected, pretentious, or superficial—Sally Hayes, Carl Luce, Maurice and Sunny, and even Mr. Spencer stand out as examples. Some characters, like Maurice and Sunny, are genuinely harmful. But although Holden expends so much energy searching for phoniness in others, he never directly observes his own phoniness. His deceptions are generally pointless and cruel and he notes that he is a compulsive liar. For example, on the train to New York, he perpetrates a mean-spirited and needless prank on Mrs. Morrow. He’d like us to believe that he is a paragon of virtue in a world of phoniness, but that simply isn’t the case. Although he’d like to believe that the world is a simple place, and that virtue and innocence rest on one side of the fence while superficiality and phoniness rest on the other, Holden is his own counterevidence. The world is not as simple as he’d like—and needs—it to be; even he cannot adhere to the same black-and-white standards with which he judges other people.
MOTIFS
Loneliness
Holden’s loneliness, a more concrete manifestation of his alienation problem, is a driving force throughout the book. Most of the novel describes his almost manic quest for companionship as he flits from one meaningless encounter to another. Yet, while his behavior indicates his loneliness, Holden consistently shies away from introspection and thus doesn’t really know why he keeps behaving as he does. Because Holden depends on his isolation to preserve his detachment from the world and to maintain a level of self-protection, he often sabotages his own attempts to end his loneliness. For example, his conversation with Carl Luce and his date with Sally Hayes are made unbearable by his rude behavior. His calls to Jane Gallagher are aborted for a similar reason: to protect his precious and fragile sense of individuality. Loneliness is the emotional manifestation of the alienation Holden experiences; it is both a source of great pain and a source of his security.

Relationships, Intimacy, and Sexuality
Relationships, intimacy, and sexuality are also recurring motifs relating to the larger theme of alienation. Both physical and emotional relationships offer Holden opportunity to break out of his isolated shell. They also represent what he fears most about the adult world: complexity, unpredictability, and potential for conflict and change. As he demonstrates at the Museum of Natural History, Holden likes the world to be silent and frozen, predictable and unchanging. As he watches Phoebe sleep, Holden projects his own idealizations of childhood onto her. But in real-world relationships, people talk back, and Phoebe reveals how different her childhood is from Holden’s romanticized notion. Because people are unpredictable, they challenge Holden and force him to question his senses of self-confidence and self-worth. For intricate and unspoken reasons, seemingly stemming from Allie’s death, Holden has trouble dealing with this kind of complexity. As a result, he has isolated himself and fears intimacy. Although he encounters opportunities for both physical and emotional intimacy, he bungles them all, wrapping himself in a psychological armor of critical cynicism and bitterness. Even so, Holden desperately continues searching for new relationships, always undoing himself only at the last moment.

Lying and Deception
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Lying and deception are the most obvious and hurtful elements of the larger category of phoniness. Holden’s definition of phoniness relies mostly on a kind of self-deception: he seems to reserve the most scorn for people who think that they are something they are not or who refuse to acknowledge their own weaknesses. But lying to others is also a kind of phoniness, a type of deception that indicates insensitivity, callousness, or even cruelty. Of course, Holden himself is guilty of both these crimes. His random and repeated lying highlights his own self-deception—he refuses to acknowledge his own shortcomings and is unwilling to consider how his behavior affects those around him. Through his lying and deception, Holden proves that he is just as guilty of phoniness as the people he criticizes.

SYMBOLS.

The “Catcher in the Rye”
As the source of the book’s title, this symbol merits close inspection. It first appears in Chapter 16, when a kid Holden admires for walking in the street rather than on the sidewalk is singing the Robert Burns song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” In Chapter 22, when Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life, he replies with his image, from the song, of a “catcher in the rye.” Holden imagines a field of rye perched high on a cliff, full of children romping and playing. He says he would like to protect the children from falling off the edge of the cliff by “catching” them if they were on the verge of tumbling over. As Phoebe points out, Holden has misheard the lyric. He thinks the line is “If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye,” but the actual lyric is “If a body meet a body, coming through the rye.”
The song “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye” asks if it is wrong for two people to have a romantic encounter out in the fields, away from the public eye, even if they don’t plan to have a commitment to one another. It is highly ironic that the word “meet” refers to an encounter that leads to recreational sex, because the word that Holden substitutes—“catch”—takes on the exact opposite meaning in his mind. Holden wants to catch children before they fall out of innocence into knowledge of the adult world, including knowledge of sex.

Holden’s Red Hunting Hat
The red hunting hat is one of the most recognizable symbols from twentieth-century American literature. It is inseparable from our image of Holden, with good reason: it is a symbol of his uniqueness and individuality. The hat is outlandish, and it shows that Holden desires to be different from everyone around him. At the same time, he is very self-conscious about the hat—he always mentions when he is wearing it, and he often doesn’t wear it if he is going to be around people he knows. The presence of the hat, therefore, mirrors the central conflict in the book: Holden’s need for isolation versus his need for companionship.
It is worth noting that the hat’s color, red, is the same as that of Allie’s and Phoebe’s hair. Perhaps Holden associates it with the innocence and purity he believes these characters represent and wears it as a way to connect to them. He never explicitly comments on the hat’s significance other than to mention its unusual appearance.

The Museum of Natural History
Holden tells us the symbolic meaning of the museum’s displays: they appeal to him because they are frozen and unchanging. He also mentions that he is troubled by the fact that he has changed every time he returns to them. The museum represents the world Holden wishes he could live in: it’s the world of his “catcher in the rye” fantasy, a world where nothing ever changes, where everything is simple, understandable, and infinite. Holden is terrified by the unpredictable challenges of the world—he hates conflict, he is confused by Allie’s senseless death, and he fears interaction with other people.

The Ducks in the Central Park Lagoon
Holden’s curiosity about where the ducks go during the winter reveals a genuine, more youthful side to his character. For most of the book, he sounds like a grumpy old man who is angry at the world, but his search for the ducks represents the curiosity of youth and a joyful willingness to encounter the mysteries of the world. It is a memorable moment, because Holden clearly lacks such willingness in other aspects of his life.
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The ducks and their pond are symbolic in several ways. Their mysterious perseverance in the face of an inhospitable environment resonates with Holden’s understanding of his own situation. In addition, the ducks prove that some vanishings are only temporary. Traumatized and made acutely aware of the fragility of life by his brother Allie’s death, Holden is terrified by the idea of change and disappearance. The ducks vanish every winter, but they return every spring, thus symbolizing change that isn’t permanent, but cyclical. Finally, the pond itself becomes a minor metaphor for the world as Holden sees it, because it is “partly frozen and partly not frozen.” The pond is in transition between two states, just as Holden is in transition between childhood and adulthood.
QUOTATION.
“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”
“Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it.”
Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.

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This quotation is from Holden’s conversation with Spencer in Chapter 2. His former teacher is needling him about his failures at Pencey; at this point, he lectures Holden about the importance of playing by the rules. The conversation succinctly illuminates key aspects of Holden’s character. We see his silent contempt for adults, which is evidenced by the silent ridiculing and cursing of Spencer that Holden hides beneath his nodding, compliant veneer. We also see how alienated he feels. He clearly identifies with those on the “other side” of the game, and he feels alone and victimized, as though the world is against him. At this point in the novel, Holden’s sense of disadvantage and corresponding bitterness seem somewhat strange, given his circumstances: he’s clearly a bright boy from a privileged New York family. As the book progresses, however, we learn that Holden has built a cynical psychological armor around himself to protect himself from the complexities of the world.

Michael Ondaatje. The English Patient (1992).

FULL TITLE · The English Patient

AUTHOR · Michael Ondaatje

TYPE OF WORK · Novel

GENRE · Historical fiction

LANGUAGE · English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · 1992; Toronto

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1993

PUBLISHER · Vintage International

NARRATOR · The narrator is omniscient, and conveys the points of view of several different characters

CLIMAX · Kip threatens to kill Almásy, the English patient, after he hears the news that the United States has dropped atomic bombs on Japan .

PROTAGONIST · Almasy, the English patient

ANTAGONIST · World War II; the war disrupts the lives of all the characters and makes it impossible for Almasy to continue his love affair with Katharine

SETTING (TIME) · The scenes in the villa take place in 1945, at the very end of the World War II, though the various flashbacks are set throughout the 1930s and early 1940s

SETTING (PLACE) · Primarily a small villa in the hills near Florence, Italy; but also Cairo, the Libyan desert, and England

POINT OF VIEW · The point of view is generally third-person omniscient, except several times when the English patient begins to tell stories about his past in the first person

FALLING ACTION · Kip's desertion of the villa on his motorbike without saying goodbye to Hana, Almasy, or Caravaggio; Kip's thoughts of Hana while having dinner with his new family in India years later

TENSE · Present tense when Ondaatje writes about live and events in the Italian villa; past tense when one of the characters is flashing back to a previous memory or event

FORESHADOWING · Almasy draws his arm across Katharine's neck, a foreshadowing of their violent and passionate love affair; Kip's emotional distance, which prefigures his desertion of Hana at the end of the novel

TONE · Reflective and poetic, as each of the characters' memories are revealed complete with their thoughts and personal connections

THEMES · Love's ability to transcend time and place; nationality and identity; the connection between body and mind; ownership

MOTIFS · Reading; the desert; maps; history books; bodies

SYMBOLS · The bomb; the villa; the English patient's burned body
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BIOGRAPHY.
Philip Michael Ondaatje, OC (1943), is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet. He won the Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient (1992), which was adapted as a 1996 film of the same name. It won multiple Academy Awards.
Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1943 and moved to England in 1954. He attended Dulwich College.[1] After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. He studied at Bishop's College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec for some time. He then moved to Toronto, where he received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.
He began teaching at the University of Western Ontario in London. In 1970, he settled in Toronto. From 1971 to 1990, he taught English literature at York University and Glendon College.
Since the 1960s, Ondaatje has been involved with Toronto's Coach House Books, supporting the independent small press by working as a poetry editor. Ondaatje and his wife Linda Spalding, a novelist and academic, co-edit Brick, A Literary Journal, with Michael Redhill, Michael Helm, and Esta Spalding. In 1988, Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and two years later a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ondaatje serves on the board of trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry.
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Ondaatje has two children. His brother Christopher Ondaatje is a philanthropist, businessman and author. Ondaatje's nephew David Ondaatje is a film director and screenwriter, who made the 2009 film The Lodger.
PLOT.
In The English Patient, the past and the present are continually intertwined. The narrative structure intersperses descriptions of present action with thoughts and conversations that offer glimpses of past events and occurrences. Though there is no single narrator, the story is alternatively seen from the point of view of each of the main characters.

The novel opens with Hana, a young nurse, gardening outside a villa in Italy in 1945. The European theater of the war has just ended with the Germans retreating up the Italian countryside. As the Germans retreated, they left hidden bombs and mines everywhere, so the landscape is particularly dangerous. Although the other nurses and patients have left the villa to escape to a safer place, Hana decides to stay in the villa with her patient.
Hana does not know much about the man for whom she cares. Found in the wreckage of a plane crash, he been burned beyond recognition, his whole body black and even the slightest touch painful to him. He talks about the Bedouin tribe who found him in the wreckage, cared for his wounds, and eventually returned him to a British camp in 1944. He does not know who they were, but he feels grateful to them nonetheless. To pass the time, Hana reads to the English patient—she assumes he is English by his manner and speech—and also gardens, fixes up the villa, and plays hopscotch. Sometimes she picks up the patient's notebook, a copy of Herodotus's The Histories marked throughout with his own notes, figures, and observations, and reads to him or to herself.
One day, a man with bandaged hands named Caravaggio arrives at the villa. He is an old family friend of Hana's father, Patrick, and had heard about her location while he was recovering in a hospital a few miles away. In Canada, where Caravaggio knew Hana years ago, he was a thief. He tells her how his skills were legitimized in the war and how he put them to use working for British Intelligence in North Africa. He tells her that the Germans caught him after an attempt to steal a camera from a woman's room. They tortured him and cut off his thumbs, leaving his hands mutilated and nearly useless. Although he has recovered somewhat, he is still addicted to morphine. In the villa, he reminisces with Hana and mourns with her over the death of her father in the war.
As Hana plays the piano in the library, two soldiers come in and stand alongside while she plays. One of them is Kip, an Indian Sikh trained as a sapper, or bomb-defuser, in the British army. After hearing the piano, Kip has come to clear the villa of bombs, knowing that the Germans frequently booby-trapped musical instruments. Kip and the English patient get along very well, as they are both experts in guns and bombs and enjoy talking to each other and sharing stories. Kip makes camp in the garden of the villa and becomes a part of the "family" that now exists there. He goes off into town every day to clear more bombs from the area and to bury fellow sappers who have died. Kip's job is extremely dangerous. He feels a strong attraction to Hana, and soon they become lovers.
Asked about his past, the English patient begins to tell the others his story. His real name is Almasy, though this is not definitively confirmed until Chapter IX. He spent the years from 1930 to the start of World War II exploring the North African desert. His job was to make observations, draw maps, and search for ancient oases in the sands. Along with his fellow European counterparts, Almasy knew every inch of the desert and made many trips across it. In 1936, a young man from Oxford, Geoffrey Clifton, and his new wife Katharine, joined their party. Geoffrey owned a plane, which the party found especially useful in helping to map the desert. The explorers, Almasy, and the Cliftons got along very well. One night, after hearing Katharine read a passage from his book of Herodotus, Almasy realized he was in love with her. They soon began a torrid and tumultuous affair. Everywhere they stole glances and moments, and they were obsessed with each other. Finally, in 1938, Katharine broke off their affair, telling Almasy that Geoffrey would go mad if he ever found out. Although their affair was over, Almasy remained haunted by her, and he tried to punish her for hurting him by being particularly mean to her in public. At some point, Geoffrey somehow found out about the affair.
World War II broke out in 1939, and Almasy decided to close up their camp and arranged for Geoffrey to pick him up in the desert. Geoffrey arrived in his plane with Katharine. Geoffrey attempted to kill all three of them by crashing the plane into Almasy, who was standing on the ground. The plane missed Almasy, but the crash killed Geoffrey, left Katharine severely injured, and left them with no way to escape the desert. Almasy placed Katharine in a nearby cave, covering her with a parachute for warmth, and promised to come back for her. He walked across the desert for four days until he reached the nearest town, but when he got there, the English army would not help him get back to Katharine. Because Almasy had a foreign-sounding name, the British were suspicious and locked him up as a spy, prevented him from saving Katharine.
Almasy was eventually released, but he knew it was too late to save her. He worked for the Germans, helping their spies make their way across the desert into Cairo. After he left Cairo, his truck broke down in the desert. Without transportation, he walked to the cave to get Katharine. He took her dead body and placed it in a plane that had been buried beneath the sand. The plane malfunctioned during their flight and caught fire. Almasy parachuted down from the plane, his body covered in flames. That was the point at which the Bedouins found him and cared for his burns.
Little by little, the English patient tells this whole story. Caravaggio, who has suspected the English patient was not really English, has his suspicions confirmed. He fills in gaps for the Almasy, telling him that Geoffrey Clifton was really an agent of British Intelligence and that Intelligence had known about Almasy and Katharine's affair the whole time. They knew Almasy had started helping the Germans and planned to kill him in the desert. They lost him between Cairo and the plane crash, and now, of course, he is unrecognizable.
The focus of the novel shifts to Kip, and we are told his entire story. Although Kip's brother always distrusted the west, Kip went willingly to serve in the British army. He was trained as a bomb defuser under Lord Suffolk, a true English gentleman, and was then virtually welcomed into an English family. Kip soon grew quite skillful at his job, able to figure out both the "joke" and the "character" of each bomb he tackled. Lord Suffolk and his group were blown up defusing a bomb, and Kip decided to leave England and become a sapper in Italy.
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Kip has felt emotionally removed from everyone in his job as a sapper. When he meets Hana, he uses her to once again connect to humanity. All the residents of the villa celebrate Hana's twenty-first birthday, and Kip grows comfortable as her lover. When August comes, however, Kip hears on the radio of the atomic bomb that the United States has dropped on Japan. He becomes enraged, knowing that a western country would never commit such an atrocity against another white country. He takes his gun and threatens to kill the English patient, whom he sees as a symbol of the West. Kip does not kill Almasy, but takes off on his motorcycle, leaving the villa forever. Years later, he is a doctor in India with a family of his own. Though he is happy and fulfilled in his new life, he often wonders about Hana.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Almásy
The protagonist and the "English patient" of the novel's title, Almásy exists as the center and focus of the action, despite the fact that he is without name or identity for much of the novel. Almásy thus serves as the blank sheet upon whom all the other characters focus their desires and expectations. Little by little, he reveals his identity, and finally his name, in Chapter IX. When Almásy's name is revealed we discover the great irony of the novel: the "English patient" is not even English, but rather Hungarian by birth, an "international bastard" who has spent much of his adult life wandering the desert. In this way, the English patient serves to highlight the great difference between imagination and reality, and the abstraction of concepts such as nationality and citizenship. On the whole, Almásy is not at all what the other characters think he appears to be.
Almásy's manner is knowledgeable and reflective. His entire career has consisted of searching for ancient cities and mapping empty land. He thus links the past to the present, writing in the margins of Herodotus what he sees to be the truths of the landscape. Almásy's clear-minded and otherwise rational thinking, however, is clouded by the entrance of Katharine Clifton into his life. He becomes obsessed with images of her body, which then inspire the writing of his book. He is unable to focus on his work, frustrated that he is at a loss to name the spot at the base of her neck. Almásy is overwhelmed by passion for Katherine, walking without direction through the desert like a madman after her death, searching for her body so he may return her to England as he promised.
Though Almásy is not a highly dynamic character—by the year in which the story is set, all the events of his life have passed—he is arguably the most intriguing and mysterious figure. He is portrayed in a sympathetic light, but we must keep in mind that this may be because we hear his story from his own point of vies. From an objective perspective, many of his actions, lies, and betrayals appear reprehensible. Nonetheless, Almásy escapes total condemnation because of his knowledge, charm, and adherence to his own system of values. To Almásy—who places no value in the concept of nations and states—it is not at all unethical to help a German spy through the desert. Indeed, Almásy concludes that national identity is completely irrelevant in the desert. Ultimately, however, he suffers greatly for his beliefs and for his moments of passion. Almásy's enduring spirit and his firm connection between past and present are what keep him, the English patient, foremost in our minds.
Hana
Only twenty years old, Hana is torn between adolescence and adulthood. Barely eighteen when she leaves to become a nurse in the war, she is forced to grow up quickly, eliminating the luxuries of her character that get in the way of her duty. Three days into her work, she cuts off all her hair, as it gets in the way of her work, and refuses to look in a mirror for the duration of the war. With the confidence that comes with experience, Hana cares for the English patient, bringing him morphine and washing his wounds. Yet she still clings to vestiges of innocence that allow her to feel like a child—some nights, she goes out in the garden to play hopscotch. Hana is a dynamic character, and the novel is in many ways the story of her maturity into adulthood.
Hana goes about her duty with a Christian belief that has been somewhat compromised by the war. While she refrains from praying and outright religious ceremony, the allusions she makes are clearly religious. Hana sees her English patient as a "despairing saint" with "hipbones like Christ." This religious imagery elevates the tone of her thoughts and he importance of her actions. She imagines the patient to have been a noble warrior who has suffered—perhaps wrongly—for his actions. In reality, however, Almásy is a mapmaker who has helped German spies and carried on an affair with another man's wife. By projecting noble images onto the blank identity of the English patient, Hana builds innocent and childlike dreams. As the novel concludes, Hana sees the reality in her situation, and she longs to return home to the safety of Clara and her home.
Kip
As a soldier who has had a difficult life both at war and at home, Kip is a conflicted and complicated character. Ondaatje takes free license with Kip, employing him as a lens through which to explore Anglo-Indian relations during a period of chaos for the British Empire. Kip's experiences in India with his brother—who harbors deep resentment toward the West—and with fellow soldiers in England who react with reserve to his brown skin highlight the strained and skeptical relations between two parts of one large Empire. As an Indian man serving in the British army, Kip straddles two worlds, walking a fine line between adopting Western customs and losing his national identity.
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Yet as a character in himself, Kip is complex and elusive. He reacts with warmth to the welcoming embrace of his mentor, Lord Suffolk, but shrugs off Caravaggio's hug as he rides away on his motorcycle at the end of the novel. Much of the emotional distance Kip has built for himself is a result of his incredibly dangerous job in the war. As a man who must descend into deep pits to defuse bombs that could explode at any time, Kip has come to grips with the idea of his own mortality. His job has taught him to distrust everything and everyone. In the Italian villa, however, Kip becomes a part of the small community that has sprouted there and begins to let his guard down. However, the news of the atomic bomb dropped on Japan, which he sees as a symbol of Western aggression, jolts him back into the reality that exists outside the villa. Kip returns to the path that was initially laid out for him, becoming a doctor and having an Indian family. Years later, however, his thoughts of Hana keep him tied between two worlds.
THEMES.
Nationality and Identity
Nationality and identity are interconnected in The English Patient, functioning together to create a web of inescapable structures that tie the characters to certain places and times despite their best efforts to evade such confinement. Almásy desperately tries to elude the force of nationality, living in the desert where he creates for himself an alternate identity, one in which family and nation are irrelevant. Almásy forges this identity through his character, his work, and his interactions with others. Importantly, he chooses this identity rather than inheriting it. Certain environments in the novel lend credence to the idea that national identity can be erased. The desert and the isolated Italian villa function as such places where national identity is unimportant to one's connection with others. Kip, who becomes enmeshed in the idea of Western society and the welcoming community of the villa's inhabitants, even dismisses his hyperawareness of his own racial identity for a time.
Ultimately, however, the characters cannot escape from the outside reality that, in wartime, national identity is prized above all else. This reality invades Almásy's life in the desert and Kip's life in the Italian villa. Desperate for help, Almásy is locked up merely because his name sounds foreign. His identity follows him even after he is burned beyond recognition, as Caravaggio realizes that the "English" patient is not even English. For Kip, news of the atomic bomb reminds him that, outside the isolated world of the villa, western aggression still exists, crushing Asian people as Kip's brother had warned. National identity is, then, an inescapable part of each of the characters, a larger force over which they have no control.
Love's Ability to Transcend Time and Place
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One theme that emerges in the novel is that love, if it is truly heartfelt, transcends place and time. Hana feels love and connection to her father even though he has died alone, far from her in another theater of war. Almásy desperately maintains his love for Katharine even though he is unable to see her or reach her in the cave. Likewise, Kip, despite leaving Italy to marry in India, never loses his connection to Hana, whom he imagines thirteen years later and halfway across the world. Such love transcends even death, as the characters hold onto their emotions even past the grave. This idea implies a larger message—that time and place themselves are irrelevant to human connection. We see this especially in Almásy's connection to Herodotus, whose writings he follows across time through the desert. Maps and geography become details, mere artificial lines that man imposes on the landscape. It is only the truth in the soul, which transcends time, that matters in the novel.
MOTIFS.
Bodies
The frequent recurrence of descriptions of bodies in the novel informs and develops its themes of healing, changing, and renewal. The text is replete with body images: Almásy's burned body, Kip's dark and lithe body, Katharine's willowy figure, and so on. Each description provides not only a window into that character's existence; more importantly, it provides a map of that person's history. Almásy remembers the vaccination scar on Katharine's arm and immediately knows her as a child getting a shot in a school gymnasium. Caravaggio looks at Hana's serious face and knows that she looks that way because of the experiences that have shaped her. Understanding the bodies of the different characters is a way to draw maps, to get closer to the experiences which have shaped and been shaped by identity. Bodies thus function as a means of physical connections between characters, tying them to a certain times and places.

Dying in a Holy Place
The characters in the novel frequently mention the idea of "dying in a holy place." Katharine dies in a cave, a holy place to ancient people. Patrick, Hana's father, also dies in a holy place, a dove-cot, a ledge above a building where doves can be safe from predatory rats. Madox dies in a holy place by taking his life in a church in England. This idea recurs throughout the nvoel, but the meaning of "holy place" is complex. It does not signify a place that is 'holy' to individual people: Katharine hates the desert, Patrick hates to be alone, and Madox loses his faith in the holiness of the church. None of these characters, then, die in a location that is special to them. But the figurative idea of a 'holy place' touches on the connection between actual places and states of emotion in the novel. Emotionally, each of these characters died in a "holy place" by remaining in the hearts of people who love them. In The English Patient, geography is transcendent; it is the sacredness of love that endures.

Reading
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Reading is recurs throughout the novel in various forms and capacities: Hana reads to Almásy to connect with him and try to make him interested in the present life, Katharine reads voraciously to learn all she can about Cairo and the desert, and Almásy consistently reads The Histories by Herodotus to guide him in his geographical searches. In each of these instances of reading, the characters use books to inform their own lives and to connect to another place or time. Reading thus becomes a metaphor for reaching beyond oneself to connect with others. Indeed, it is Katharine's reading of the story in Herodotus that makes Almásy fall in love with her. Books are used to pass secret codes, as in the German spy's copy of Rebecca. In their interactions with books, the characters overlay the stories of their own lives onto the tales of the books, constructing multi-dimensional interactions between persons and objects.
SYMBOLS.
The Atomic Bomb
The atomic bomb the United States drops on Japan symbolizes the worst fears of western aggression. The characters in the novel try to escape the war and all its horrors by remaining with the English patient in a small Italian villa in the hills. Staying close to the patient, they can immerse themselves in his world of the past rather than face the problems of the present. The atomic bombs rip through this silence of isolation, reawakening the characters, especially Kip, to the reality of the outside world pressing in upon them. The bomb reminds them of the foolishness and power of nation-states and reminds them of the violability of their enclosed environment.
The Italian villa
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In Chapter II, Hana reflects to herself that "there seemed little demarcation between house and landscape." Such an organic depiction of the villa is symbolically important to the novel. Straddling the line between house and landscape, building and earth, the villa represents both death and rebirth. War has destroyed the villa, making huge holes in walls and ceilings. But nature has returned to fill these holes, replacing the void with new life. Such an image mirrors the spiritual death and rebirth of the villa's inhabitants, the way they learn to live again after the emotional destruction of war.
QUOTATION.
The Villa San Girolamo, built to protect inhabitants from the flesh of the devil, had the look of a besieged fortress, the limbs of most of the statues blown off during the first days of shelling. There seemed little demarcation between house and landscape, between damaged building and the burned and shelled remnants of the earth. To Hana the wild gardens were further rooms… In spite of the burned earth, in spite of the lack of water. Someday there would be a bower of limes, rooms of green light.

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This passage, seen through Hana's eyes, is found in Chapter II of the novel. It describes the Villa San Girolamo, the house in which Hana and Almásy lived. The building was originally used as a convent, protecting its inhabitants "from the flesh of the devil." But now, ironically, whole pieces of the villa are blown away, leaving the inhabitants inside largely unprotected. Nevertheless, the villa remains a type of "holy place." The narrator notes that "there seemed little demarcation between house and landscape." Such an organic image is symbolically important to the novel: straddling the line between house and landscape, building and earth, the villa represents both death and rebirth. War has destroyed the villa, leaving huge holes in walls and ceilings. Nature, however, has returned to fill these holes, replacing absence with life. Such an image reflects the spiritual death and rebirth of the villa's inhabitants, the way they learn to live again after the emotional destruction of war.

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 (1953).

FULL TITLE · Fahrenheit 451

AUTHOR · Ray Bradbury

TYPE OF WORK · Novel

GENRE · Science fiction

LANGUAGE · English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · 1950–1953, Los Angeles, California

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1953 (a shorter version entitled “The Fireman” was published in 1951 in Galaxy Science Fiction)

PUBLISHER · Ballantine Books

NARRATOR · Third-person, limited omniscient; follows Montag’s point of view, often articulating his interior monologues

CLIMAX · Montag’s murder of Beatty

PROTAGONIST · Montag

ANTAGONIST · Beatty, but also society in general

SETTING (TIME) · Sometime in the twenty-fourth century; there have been two atomic wars since 1990

SETTING (PLACE) · In and around an unspecified city

POINT OF VIEW · Montag’s

FALLING ACTION · Montag’s trip out of the city into the country

TENSE · Past, with occasional transitions into present tense during Montag’s interior monologues and stream-of-consciousness passages

FORESHADOWING · Montag’s uncanny feelings of prescience; early descriptions of the Mechanical Hound; Montag’s nervous glances toward the ventilator shaft where he has hidden his books; discussion of the qualities of fire

TONE · Foreboding and menacing, disoriented, poetic, bitterly satirical

THEMES · Censorship, knowledge versus ignorance

MOTIFS · Paradoxes, animals and nature, religion, television and radio

SYMBOLS · Fire, blood, the Electric-Eyed Snake, the hearth, the salamander, the phoenix, the sieve and the sand, Denham’s Dentifrice, the dandelion, mirrors

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BIOGRAPHY.

Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction author. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and for the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951), Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers. He wrote and consulted on many screenplays and television scripts, including Moby Dick (1956) and most notably, It Came from Outer Space, and many of his works have been adapted into comic books, television shows, and films.
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PLOT.
Guy Montag is a fireman who burns books in a futuristic American city. In Montag’s world, firemen start fires rather than putting them out. The people in this society do not read books, enjoy nature, spend time by themselves, think independently, or have meaningful conversations. Instead, they drive very fast, watch excessive amounts of television on wall-size sets, and listen to the radio on “Seashell Radio” sets attached to their ears.
Montag encounters a gentle seventeen-year-old girl named Clarisse McClellan, who opens his eyes to the emptiness of his life with her innocently penetrating questions and her unusual love of people and nature. Over the next few days, Montag experiences a series of disturbing events. First, his wife, Mildred, attempts suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. Then, when he responds to an alarm that an old woman has a stash of hidden literature, the woman shocks him by choosing to be burned alive along with her books. A few days later, he hears that Clarisse has been killed by a speeding car. Montag’s dissatisfaction with his life increases, and he begins to search for a solution in a stash of books that he has stolen from his own fires and hidden inside an air-conditioning vent.
When Montag fails to show up for work, his fire chief, Beatty, pays a visit to his house. Beatty explains that it’s normal for a fireman to go through a phase of wondering what books have to offer, and he delivers a dizzying monologue explaining how books came to be banned in the first place. According to Beatty, special-interest groups and other “minorities” objected to books that offended them. Soon, books all began to look the same, as writers tried to avoid offending anybody. This was not enough, however, and society as a whole decided to simply burn books rather than permit conflicting opinions. Beatty tells Montag to take twenty-four hours or so to see if his stolen books contain anything worthwhile and then turn them in for incineration. Montag begins a long and frenzied night of reading.
Overwhelmed by the task of reading, Montag looks to his wife for help and support, but she prefers television to her husband’s company and cannot understand why he would want to take the terrible risk of reading books. He remembers that he once met a retired English professor named Faber sitting in a park, and he decides that this man might be able to help him understand what he reads. He visits Faber, who tells him that the value of books lies in the detailed awareness of life that they contain. Faber says that Montag needs not only books but also the leisure to read them and the freedom to act upon their ideas.
Faber agrees to help Montag with his reading, and they concoct a risky scheme to overthrow the status quo. Faber will contact a printer and begin reproducing books, and Montag will plant books in the homes of firemen to discredit the profession and to destroy the machinery of censorship. Faber gives him a two-way radio earpiece (the “green bullet”) so that he can hear what Montag hears and talk to him secretly.
Montag goes home, and soon two of his wife’s friends arrive to watch television. The women discuss their families and the war that is about to be declared in an extremely frivolous manner. Their superficiality angers him, and he takes out a book of poetry and reads “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold. Faber buzzes in his ear for him to be quiet, and Mildred tries to explain that the poetry reading is a standard way for firemen to demonstrate the uselessness of literature. The women are extremely disturbed by the poem and leave to file a complaint against Montag.
Montag goes to the fire station and hands over one of his books to Beatty. Beatty confuses Montag by barraging him with contradictory quotations from great books. Beatty exploits these contradictions to show that literature is morbid and dangerously complex, and that it deserves incineration. Suddenly, the alarm sounds, and they rush off to answer the call, only to find that the alarm is at Montag’s own house. Mildred gets into a cab with her suitcase, and Montag realizes that his own wife has betrayed him.
Beatty forces Montag to burn the house himself; when he is done, Beatty places him under arrest. When Beatty continues to berate Montag, Montag turns the flamethrower on his superior and proceeds to burn him to ashes. Montag knocks the other firemen unconscious and runs. The Mechanical Hound, a monstrous machine that Beatty has set to attack Montag, pounces and injects Montag’s leg with a large dose of anesthetic. Montag manages to destroy it with his flamethrower; then he walks off the numbness in his leg and escapes with some books that were hidden in his backyard. He hides these in another fireman’s house and calls in an alarm from a pay phone.
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Montag goes to Faber’s house, where he learns that a new Hound has been put on his trail, along with several helicopters and a television crew. Faber tells Montag that he is leaving for St. Louis to see a retired printer who may be able to help them. Montag gives Faber some money and tells him how to remove Montag’s scent from his house so the Hound will not enter it. Montag then takes some of Faber’s old clothes and runs off toward the river. The whole city watches as the chase unfolds on TV, but Montag manages to escape in the river and change into Faber’s clothes to disguise his scent. He drifts downstream into the country and follows a set of abandoned railroad tracks until he finds a group of renegade intellectuals (“the Book People”), led by a man named Granger, who welcome him. They are a part of a nationwide network of book lovers who have memorized many great works of literature and philosophy. They hope that they may be of some help to mankind in the aftermath of the war that has just been declared. Montag’s role is to memorize the Book of Ecclesiastes. Enemy jets appear in the sky and completely obliterate the city with bombs. Montag and his new friends move on to search for survivors and rebuild civilization.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Guy Montag

Appropriately named after a paper-manufacturing company, Montag is the protagonist of Fahrenheit 451. He is by no means a perfect hero, however. The reader can sympathize with Montag’s mission, but the steps he takes toward his goal often seem clumsy and misguided. Montag’s faith in his profession and his society begins to decline almost immediately after the novel’s opening passage. Faced with the enormity and complexity of books for the first time, he is often confused, frustrated, and overwhelmed. As a result, he has difficulty deciding what to do independently of Beatty, Mildred, or Faber. Likewise, he is often rash, inarticulate, self-obsessed, and too easily swayed. At times he is not even aware of why he does things, feeling that his hands are acting by themselves. These subconscious actions can be quite horrific, such as when he finds himself setting his supervisor on fire, but they also represent his deepest desires to rebel against the status quo and find a meaningful way to live.

In his desperate quest to define and comprehend his own life and purpose by means of books, he blunders blindly and stupidly as often as he thinks and acts lucidly. His attempts to reclaim his own humanity range from the compassionate and sensitive, as in his conversations with Clarisse, to the grotesque and irresponsible, as in his murder of Beatty and his half-baked scheme to overthrow the firemen.
Mildred Montag

Mildred is the one major character in the book who seems to have no hope of resolving the conflicts within herself. Her suicide attempt suggests that she is in great pain and that her obsession with television is a means to avoid confronting her life. But her true feelings are buried very deep within her. She even appears to be unaware of her own suicide attempt. She is a frightening character, because the reader would expect to know the protagonist’s wife very intimately, but she is completely cold, distant, and unreadable. Her betrayal of Montag is far more severe than Beatty’s, since she is, after all, his wife. Bradbury portrays Mildred as a shell of a human being, devoid of any sincere emotional, intellectual, or spiritual substance. Her only attachment is to the “family” in the soap opera she watches.
Captain Beatty

Beatty is a complex character, full of contradictions. He is a book burner with a vast knowledge of literature, someone who obviously cared passionately about books at some point. It is important to note that Beatty’s entire speech to Montag describing the history of the firemen is strangely ambivalent, containing tones of irony, sarcasm, passion, and regret, all at once. Beatty calls books treacherous weapons, yet he uses his own book learning to manipulate Montag mercilessly.
In one of his most sympathetic moments, Beatty says he’s tried to understand the universe and knows firsthand its melancholy tendency to make people feel bestial and lonely. He is quick to stress that he prefers his life of instant pleasure, but it is easy to get the impression that his vehemence serves to deny his true feelings. His role as a character is complicated by the fact that Bradbury uses him to do so much explication of the novel’s background. In his shrewd observations of the world around him and his lack of any attempt to prevent his own death, he becomes too sympathetic to function as a pure villain.
Professor Faber

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Named after a famous publisher, Faber competes with Beatty in the struggle for Montag’s mind. His control over Montag may not be as complete and menacing as Beatty’s, but he does manipulate Montag via his two-way radio to accomplish the things his cowardice has prevented him from doing himself, acting as the brain directing Montag’s body. Faber’s role and motivations are complex: at times he tries to help Montag think independently and at other times he tries to dominate him. Similarly, he can be cowardly and heroic by turns. Neither Faber nor Beatty can articulate his beliefs in a completely convincing way, despite the fact that their pupil is naïve and credulous.
THEMES.
Censorship
Fahrenheit 451 doesn’t provide a single, clear explanation of why books are banned in the future. Instead, it suggests that many different factors could combine to create this result. These factors can be broken into two groups: factors that lead to a general lack of interest in reading and factors that make people actively hostile toward books. The novel doesn’t clearly distinguish these two developments. Apparently, they simply support one another.
The first group of factors includes the popularity of competing forms of entertainment such as television and radio. More broadly, Bradbury thinks that the presence of fast cars, loud music, and advertisements creates a lifestyle with too much stimulation in which no one has the time to concentrate. Also, the huge mass of published material is too overwhelming to think about, leading to a society that reads condensed books (which were very popular at the time Bradbury was writing) rather than the real thing.
The second group of factors, those that make people hostile toward books, involves envy. People don’t like to feel inferior to those who have read more than they have. But the novel implies that the most important factor leading to censorship is the objections of special-interest groups and “minorities” to things in books that offend them. Bradbury is careful to refrain from referring specifically to racial minorities—Beatty mentions dog lovers and cat lovers, for instance. The reader can only try to infer which special-interest groups he really has in mind.
As the Afterword to Fahrenheit 451 demonstrates, Bradbury is extremely sensitive to any attempts to restrict his free speech; for instance, he objects strongly to letters he has received suggesting that he revise his treatment of female or black characters. He sees such interventions as essentially hostile and intolerant—as the first step on the road to book burning.
Knowledge versus Ignorance
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Montag, Faber, and Beatty’s struggle revolves around the tension between knowledge and ignorance. The fireman’s duty is to destroy knowledge and promote ignorance in order to equalize the population and promote sameness. Montag’s encounters with Clarisse, the old woman, and Faber ignite in him the spark of doubt about this approach. His resultant search for knowledge destroys the unquestioning ignorance he used to share with nearly everyone else, and he battles the basic beliefs of his society.
MOTIFS.
Paradoxes
In the beginning of “The Hearth and the Salamander,” Montag’s bedroom is described first as “not empty” and then as “indeed empty,” because Mildred is physically there, but her thoughts and feelings are elsewhere. Bradbury’s repeated use of such paradoxical statements—especially that a character or thing is dead and alive or there and not there—is frequently applied to Mildred, suggesting her empty, half-alive condition. Bradbury also uses these paradoxical statements to describe the “Electric-Eyed Snake” stomach pump and, later, the Mechanical Hound. These paradoxes question the reality of beings that are apparently living but spiritually dead. Ultimately, Mildred and the rest of her society seem to be not much more than machines, thinking only what they are told to think. The culture of Fahrenheit 451 is a culture of insubstantiality and unreality, and Montag desperately seeks more substantial truths in the books he hoards.
Animal and Nature Imagery
Animal and nature imagery pervades the novel. Nature is presented as a force of innocence and truth, beginning with Clarisse’s adolescent, reverent love for nature. She convinces Montag to taste the rain, and the experience changes him irrevocably. His escape from the city into the country is a revelation to him, showing him the enlightening power of unspoiled nature.
Much of the novel’s animal imagery is ironic. Although this society is obsessed with technology and ignores nature, many frightening mechanical devices are modeled after or named for animals, such as the Electric-Eyed Snake machine and the Mechanical Hound.
Religion
Fahrenheit 451 contains a number of religious references. Mildred’s friends remind Montag of icons he once saw in a church and did not understand. The language Bradbury uses to describe the enameled, painted features of the artifacts Montag saw is similar to the language he uses to describe the firemen’s permanent smiles. Faber invokes the Christian value of forgiveness: after Montag turns against society, Faber reminds him that since he was once one of the faithful, he should demonstrate pity rather than fury.
The narrative also contains references to the miracle at Canaa, where Christ transformed water into wine. Faber describes himself as water and Montag as fire, asserting that the merging of the two will produce wine. In the biblical story, Jesus Christ’s transformation of water into wine was one of the miracles that proved his identity and instilled faith in his role as the savior. Montag longs to confirm his own identity through a similar self-transformation.
The references to fire are more complex. In the Christian tradition, fire has several meanings: from the pagan blaze in which the golden calf was made to Moses’ burning bush, it symbolizes both blatant heresy and divine presence. Fire in Fahrenheit 451 also possesses contradictory meanings. At the beginning it is the vehicle of a restrictive society, but Montag turns it upon his oppressor, using it to burn Beatty and win his freedom.
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Finally, Bradbury uses language and imagery from the Bible to resolve the novel. In the last pages, as Montag and Granger’s group walk upriver to find survivors after the bombing of the city, Montag knows they will eventually talk, and he tries to remember appropriate passages from the Bible. He brings to mind Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season,” and also Revelations 22:2, “And on either side of the river was there a tree of life . . . and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations,” which he decides to save for when they reach the city. The verse from Revelations also speaks of the holy city of God, and the last line of the book, “When we reach the city,” implies a strong symbolic connection between the atomic holocaust of Montag’s world and the Apocalypse of the Bible.

SYMBOLS.
Blood
Blood appears throughout the novel as a symbol of a human being’s repressed soul or primal, instinctive self. Montag often “feels” his most revolutionary thoughts welling and circulating in his blood. Mildred, whose primal self has been irretrievably lost, remains unchanged when her poisoned blood is replaced with fresh, mechanically administered blood by the Electric-Eyed Snake machine. The symbol of blood is intimately related to the Snake machine. Bradbury uses the electronic device to reveal Mildred’s corrupted insides and the thick sediment of delusion, misery, and self-hatred within her. The Snake has explored “the layer upon layer of night and stone and stagnant spring water,” but its replacement of her blood could not rejuvenate her soul. Her poisoned, replaceable blood signifies the empty lifelessness of Mildred and the countless others like her.
“The Hearth and the Salamander”
Bradbury uses this conjunction of images as the title of the first part of Fahrenheit 451. The hearth, or fireplace, is a traditional symbol of the home; the salamander is one of the official symbols of the firemen, as well as the name they give to their fire trucks. Both of these symbols have to do with fire, the dominant image of Montag’s life—the hearth because it contains the fire that heats a home, and the salamander because of ancient beliefs that it lives in fire and is unaffected by flames.
“The Sieve and the Sand”
The title of the second part of Fahrenheit 451, “The Sieve and the Sand,” is taken from Montag’s childhood memory of trying to fill a sieve with sand on the beach to get a dime from a mischievous cousin and crying at the futility of the task. He compares this memory to his attempt to read the whole Bible as quickly as possible on the subway in the hope that, if he reads fast enough, some of the material will stay in his memory.
Simply put, the sand is a symbol of the tangible truth Montag seeks, and the sieve the human mind seeking a truth that remains elusive and, the metaphor suggests, impossible to grasp in any permanent way.
The Phoenix
After the bombing of the city, Granger compares mankind to a phoenix that burns itself up and then rises out of its ashes over and over again. Man’s advantage is his ability to recognize when he has made a mistake, so that eventually he will learn not to make that mistake anymore. Remembering the mistakes of the past is the task Granger and his group have set for themselves. They believe that individuals are not as important as the collective mass of culture and history. The symbol of the phoenix’s rebirth refers not only to the cyclical nature of history and the collective rebirth of humankind but also to Montag’s spiritual resurrection.
Mirrors
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At the very end of the novel, Granger says they must build a mirror factory to take a long look at themselves; this remark recalls Montag’s description of Clarisse as a mirror in “The Hearth and the Salamander.” Mirrors here are symbols of self-understanding, of seeing oneself clearly.
QUOTATION.
It’s perpetual motion; the thing man wanted to invent but never did. . . . It’s a mystery. . . . Its real beauty is that it destroys responsibility and consequences . . . clean, quick, sure; nothing to rot later. Antibiotic, aesthetic, practical.

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Beatty speaks these lines to Montag outside Montag’s home in “Burning Bright,” right before Montag burns him to death with the flamethrower. He muses about the mystical nature of fire, its unexplained beauty, and the fascination it holds for people. With characteristic irony, Beatty, who has just accused Montag of not considering the consequences of his actions, then defines the beauty of fire as its ability to destroy consequences and responsibilities. What he describes is very nearly a cult of fire, a fitting depiction of their society’s devotion to cleanliness and destruction. Unfortunately, Montag turns Beatty’s philosophy against him by turning the flamethrower on his boss, inflicting an “antibiotic, aesthetic, practical” death.

Ken Kesey.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1962).

FULL TITLE · One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

AUTHOR · Ken Kesey

TYPE OF WORK · Novel

GENRE · Allegorical novel; counterculture novel; protest novel

LANGUAGE · English

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · The late 1950s; at Stanford University in California while Kesey was enrolled in the creative writing program, working as an orderly in a psychiatric ward, and participating in experimental LSD trials

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1962

PUBLISHER · Viking Press

NARRATOR · Chief Bromden, also known as Chief Broom, who tells the story after he has escaped from the hospital

POINT OF VIEW · Chief Bromden narrates in the first person. He tells the story as it appears to him, though his objectivity is somewhat compromised by the fact that he suffers from paranoia and hallucinations. His unusual state of mind provides metaphorical insight into the insidious reality of the hospital as well as society in general. Because he pretends to be deaf and dumb, he is privy to secret staff information that is kept from other patients, which makes him a more reliable narrator than any other patient would be.

TONE · The novel’s tone is critical and allegorical; the hospital is presented as a metaphor for the oppressive society of the late 1950s. The novel praises the expression of sexuality as the ultimate goal and denounces repression as based on fear and hate. Bromden’s psychedelic and slightly paranoid worldview may be commensurate with Kesey’s, and McMurphy’s use of mischief and humor to undermine authority also seems to echo the author’s attitudes.

TENSE · Present

SETTING (TIME) · 1950s

SETTING (PLACE) · A mental hospital in Oregon

PROTAGONIST · Randle P. McMurphy

MAJOR CONFLICT · The patients in the mental ward are cowed and repressed by the emasculating Nurse Ratched, who represents the oppressive force of modern society. McMurphy tries to lead them to rebel against her authority by asserting their individuality and sexuality, while Nurse Ratched attempts to discredit McMurphy and shame the patients back into docility.

RISING ACTION · The World Series rebellion; McMurphy’s encounter with the lifeguard; McMurphy discovering what being committed means; Cheswick’s death

CLIMAX · McMurphy reasserts himself against Nurse Ratched at the end of Part II by smashing the glass window in the Nurses’ Station, signaling that his rebellion is no longer lighthearted or selfish but committed and violent. McMurphy takes on the responsibility for rehabilitating the other patients.

FALLING ACTION · McMurphy’s decision to return Bromden to his former strength; the fishing trip and visit to McMurphy’s childhood house, where Bromden sees his panic and fatigue; McMurphy and Bromden’s fight with the aides; the electroshock therapy; the ward party and Billy’s suicide; McMurphy’s violent attack on Nurse Ratched; the lobotomy

THEMES · Women as castrators; society’s destruction of natural impulses; the importance of expressing sexuality; false diagnoses of insanity

MOTIFS · Invisibility; the power of laughter; real versus imagined size

SYMBOLS · The fog machine; McMurphy’s boxer shorts; the electroshock therapy table

FORESHADOWING · The story of Maxwell Taber; the electroshock therapy table shaped like a cross; the deaths of Rawler, Cheswick, and Billy; Bromden’s dreams and hallucinations

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BIOGRAPHY.
Kenneth Elton "Ken" Kesey (1935- 2001) was an American author, best known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962) and as a countercultural figure who considered himself a link between the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the hippies of the 1960s. "I was too young to be a beatnik, and too old to be a hippie," Kesey said in a 1999 interview with Robert K. Elder. Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, Colorado, to dairy farmers Geneva (Smith) and Frederick A. Kesey Death
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Kesey was diagnosed with diabetes in 1992. In 1997, health problems began to weaken him, starting with a stroke that year. On October 25, 2001 Kesey had surgery on his liver to remove a tumor. He did not recover from that operation and died of complications on November 10, 2001, age 66.
PLOT.
Chief Bromden, the half-Indian narrator of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, has been a patient in an Oregon psychiatric hospital for ten years. His paranoia is evident from the first lines of the book, and he suffers from hallucinations and delusions. Bromden’s worldview is dominated by his fear of what he calls the Combine, a huge conglomeration that controls society and forces people into conformity. Bromden pretends to be deaf and dumb and tries to go unnoticed, even though he is six feet seven inches tall. The mental patients, all male, are divided into Acutes, who can be cured, and Chronics, who cannot be cured. They are ruled by Nurse Ratched, a former army nurse who runs the ward with harsh, mechanical precision. During daily Group Meetings, she encourages the Acutes to attack each other in their most vulnerable places, shaming them into submission. If a patient rebels, he is sent to receive electroshock treatments and sometimes a lobotomy, even though both practices have fallen out of favor with the medical community. When Randle McMurphy arrives as a transfer from the Pendleton Work Farm, Bromden senses that something is different about him. McMurphy swaggers into the ward and introduces himself as a gambling man with a zest for women and cards. After McMurphy experiences his first Group Meeting, he tells the patients that Nurse Ratched is a ball-cutter. The other patients tell him that there is no defying her, because in their eyes she is an all-powerful force. McMurphy makes a bet that he can make Ratched lose her temper within a week. At first, the confrontations between Ratched and McMurphy provide entertainment for the other patients. McMurphy’s insubordination, however, soon stimulates the rest of them into rebellion. The success of his bet hinges on a failed vote to change the television schedule to show the World Series, which is on during the time allotted for cleaning chores. McMurphy stages a protest by sitting in front of the blank television instead of doing his work, and one by one the other patients join him. Nurse Ratched loses control and screams at them. Bromden observes that an outsider would think all of them were crazy, including the nurse. In Part II, McMurphy, flush with victory, taunts Nurse Ratched and the staff with abandon. Everyone expects him to get sent to the Disturbed ward, but Nurse Ratched keeps him in the regular ward, thinking the patients will soon see that he is just as cowardly as everyone else. McMurphy eventually learns that involuntarily committed patients are stuck in the hospital until the staff decides they are cured. When McMurphy realizes that he is at Nurse Ratched’s mercy, he begins to submit to her authority. By this time, however, he has unintentionally become the leader for the other patients, and they are confused when he stops standing up for them. Cheswick, dismayed when McMurphy fails to join him in a stand against Nurse Ratched, drowns in the pool in a possible suicide. Cheswick’s death signals to McMurphy that he has unwittingly taken on the responsibility of rehabilitating the other patients. He also witnesses the harsh reality of electroshock therapy and becomes genuinely frightened by the power wielded by the staff. The weight of his obligation to the other patients and his fear for his own life begins to wear down his strength and his sanity. Nevertheless, in Part III, McMurphy arranges a fishing trip for himself and ten other patients. He shows them how to defuse the hostility of the outside world and enables them to feel powerful and masculine as they catch large fish without his help. He also arranges for Billy Bibbit to lose his virginity later in the novel, by making a date between Billy and Candy Starr, a prostitute from Portland.

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Back on the ward in Part IV, McMurphy reignites the rebellion by getting into a fistfight with the aides to defend George Sorenson. Bromden joins in, and they are both sent to the Disturbed ward for electroshock therapy. McMurphy acts as if the shock treatments do not affect him, and his heroic reputation grows. Nurse Ratched brings him back to the ward so the other patients can see his weakened state. The patients urge McMurphy to escape, but he has arranged Billy’s date for that night, and he refuses to let Billy down. McMurphy bribes Mr. Turkle, the night aide, to sneak Candy into the hospital, and they have a party on the ward. Billy has sex with Candy while McMurphy and the other patients smoke marijuana and drink. Harding tries to get McMurphy to escape with Candy and Sandy to Mexico, but McMurphy is too wasted and falls asleep. The aides discover the mess the next morning, setting off a series of violent events. When Nurse Ratched finds Billy with Candy, she threatens to tell Billy’s mother. Billy becomes hysterical and commits suicide by cutting his throat. McMurphy attacks Ratched, ripping open the front of her dress and attempting to strangle her. In retaliation, she has him lobotomized, and he returns to the ward as a vegetable. However, Ratched has lost her tyrannical power over the ward. The patients transfer to other wards or check themselves out of the hospital. Bromden suffocates McMurphy in his bed, enabling him to die with some dignity rather than live as a symbol of Ratched’s power. Bromden, having recovered the immense strength that he had believed lost during his time in the mental ward, escapes from the hospital by breaking through a window.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Chief Bromden
Chief Bromden, nicknamed “Chief Broom” because the aides make him sweep the halls, narrates One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Although he says that he is telling the story about “the hospital, and her, and the guys—and about McMurphy,” he is also telling the story of his own journey toward sanity. When the novel begins, Bromden is paranoid, bullied, and surrounded much of the time by a hallucinated fog that represents both his medicated state and his desire to hide from reality. Moreover, he believes that he is extremely weak, even though he used to be immensely strong; because he believes it, he is extremely weak. By the end of the novel, the fog has cleared, and Bromden has recovered the personal strength to euthanize McMurphy, escape from the hospital, and record his account of the events.
Bromden is six feet seven inches tall (or six feet eight inches, the book is inconsistent), but because he has been belittled for so long, he thinks he “used to be big, but not no more.” He has been a patient in an Oregon psychiatric hospital for ten years. Everyone in the hospital believes that he is deaf and dumb. When McMurphy begins to pull him out of the fog, he realizes the source of his charade: “it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.” As Bromden himself is demystified, so too is the truth behind what has oppressed him and hindered his recovery.
This oppression has been in place since Bromden’s childhood. He is the son of Chief Tee Ah Millatoona, which means The Pine That Stands Tallest on the Mountain, and a white woman, Mary Louise Bromden, the dominant force in the couple. Chief Bromden bears his mother’s last name; his father’s acceptance of her name symbolizes her dominance over him. In one telling experience, when Bromden was ten years old, three government officials came to see his father about buying the tribe’s land so they could build a hydroelectric dam, but Bromden was home alone. When he tried to speak to the officials, they acted as if he was not there. This experience sows the seeds for his withdrawal into himself, and initiates the outside world’s treatment of him as if he were deaf and dumb. Bromden’s mother joined forces with some of the members of the tribe to pressure Bromden’s father to sell the land. Bromden, like his father, is a big man who comes to feel small and helpless.
The reason for Bromden’s hospitalization is cloaked in ambiguity. He may have had a breakdown from witnessing the decline of his father or from the horrors of fighting in World War II. Both of these possible scenarios involve an emasculating and controlling authority—in the first case the government officials, in the second the army. These authority figures provide Bromden with fodder for his dark vision of society as an oppressive conglomeration that he calls the Combine. It is also possible that, like McMurphy, Bromden was sane when he entered the hospital but that his sanity slipped when he received what is rumored to be 200 electroshock treatments. The paranoia and hallucinations he suffers from, which center on hidden machines in the hospital that physically and psychologically control the patients, can be read as metaphors for the dehumanization he has experienced in his life.
Randle McMurphy
Randle McMurphy—big, loud, sexual, dirty, and confident—is an obvious foil for the quiet and repressed Bromden and the sterile and mechanical Nurse Ratched. His loud, free laughter stuns the other patients, who have grown accustomed to repressed emotions. Throughout the entire moment of his introduction, not a single voice rises to meet his.
McMurphy represents sexuality, freedom, and self-determination—characteristics that clash with the oppressed ward, which is controlled by Nurse Ratched. Through Chief Bromden’s narration, the novel establishes that McMurphy is not, in fact, crazy, but rather that he is trying to manipulate the system to his advantage. His belief that the hospital would be more comfortable than the Pendleton Work Farm, where he was serving a six-month sentence, haunts McMurphy later when he discovers the power Nurse Ratched wields over him—that she can send him for electroshock treatments and keep him committed as long as she likes. McMurphy’s sanity contrasts with what Kesey implies is an insane institution.

Whether insane or not, the hospital is undeniably in control of the fates of its patients. McMurphy’s fate as the noncomforming insurrectionist is foreshadowed by the fate of Maxwell Taber, a former patient who was also, according to Nurse Ratched, a manipulator. Taber was subjected to electroshock treatments and possibly brain work, which leaves him docile and unable to think. When Ratched equates McMurphy with Taber, we get an inkling of McMurphy’s prospects. McMurphy’s trajectory through the novel is the opposite of Bromden’s: he starts out sane and powerful but ends up a helpless vegetable, having sacrificed himself for the benefit of all the patients.
McMurphy’s self-sacrifice on behalf of his ward-mates echoes Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross to redeem humankind. McMurphy’s actions frequently parallel Christ’s actions in the Gospels. McMurphy undergoes a kind of baptism upon entering the ward, and he slowly gathers disciples around him as he increases his rebellion against Ratched. When he takes the group of patients fishing, he is like Christ leading his twelve disciples to the sea to test their faith. Finally, McMurphy’s ultimate sacrifice, his attack on Ratched, combined with the symbolism of the cross-shaped electroshock table and McMurphy’s request for “a crown of thorns,” cements the image of the Christ-like martyrdom that McMurphy has achieved by sacrificing his freedom and sanity.
Nurse Ratched

A former army nurse, Nurse Ratched represents the oppressive mechanization, dehumanization, and emasculation of modern society—in Bromden’s words, the Combine. Her nickname is “Big Nurse,” which sounds like Big Brother, the name used in George Orwell’s novel 1984 to refer to an oppressive and all-knowing authority. Bromden describes Ratched as being like a machine, and her behavior fits this description: even her name is reminiscent of a mechanical tool, sounding like both “ratchet” and “wretched.” She enters the novel, and the ward, “with a gust of cold.” Ratched has complete control over every aspect of the ward, as well as almost complete control over her own emotions. In the first few pages we see her show her “hideous self” to Bromden and the aides, only to regain her doll-like composure before any of the patients catch a glimpse. Her ability to present a false self suggests that the mechanistic and oppressive forces in society gain ascendance through the dishonesty of the powerful. Without being aware of the oppression, the quiet and docile slowly become weakened and gradually are subsumed.
Nurse Ratched does possess a nonmechanical and undeniably human feature in her large bosom, which she conceals as best she can beneath a heavily starched uniform. Her large breasts both exude sexuality and emphasize her role as a twisted mother figure for the ward. She is able to act like “an angel of mercy” while at the same time shaming the patients into submission; she knows their weak spots and exactly where to peck. The patients try to please her during the Group Meetings by airing their dirtiest, darkest secrets, and then they feel deeply ashamed for how she made them act, even though they have done nothing. She maintains her power by the strategic use of shame and guilt, as well as by a determination to “divide and conquer” her patients.
McMurphy manages to ruffle Ratched because he plays her game: he picks up on her weak spots right away. He uses his overt sexuality to throw her off her machinelike track, and he is not taken in by her thin facade of compassion or her falsely therapeutic tactics. When McMurphy rips her shirt open at the end of the novel, he symbolically exposes her hypocrisy and deceit, and she is never able to regain power.
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THEMES.
Women as Castrators
With the exception of the prostitutes, who are portrayed as good, the women in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest are uniformly threatening and terrifying figures. Bromden, the narrator, and McMurphy, the protagonist, both tend to describe the suffering of the mental patients as a matter of emasculation or castration at the hands of Nurse Ratched and the hospital supervisor, who is also a woman. The fear of women is one of the novel’s most central features. The male characters seem to agree with Harding, who complains, “We are victims of a matriarchy here.”
Indeed, most of the male patients have been damaged by relationships with overpowering women. For instance, Bromden’s mother is portrayed as a castrating woman; her husband took her last name, and she turned a big, strong chief into a small, weak alcoholic. According to Bromden, she built herself up emotionally, becoming bigger than either he or his father, by constantly putting them down. Similarly, Billy Bibbit’s mother treats him like an infant and does not allow him to develop sexually. Through sex with Candy, Billy briefly regains his confidence. It is no coincidence that this act, which symbolically resurrects his manhood, also literally introduces his penis to sexual activity. Thus, his manhood—in both senses—returns until Ratched takes it away by threatening to tell his mother and driving him to commit suicide.
More explicit images of and references to castration appear later in the novel, cementing Kesey’s idea of emasculation by the frigid nurse. When Rawler, a patient in the Disturbed ward, commits suicide by cutting off his own testicles, Bromden remarks that “all the guy had to do was wait,” implying that the institution itself would have castrated him in the long run. The hospital, run by women, treats only male patients, showing how women have the ability to emasculate even the most masculine of men. Finally, near the end of the novel, after McMurphy has already received three shock treatments that do not seem to have had an effect on him, Nurse Ratched suggests taking more drastic measures: “an operation.” She means, of course, a lobotomy, but McMurphy beats her to the punch by joking about castration. Both operations remove a man’s individuality, freedom, and ability for sexual expression. Kesey portrays the two operations as symbolically the same.
Society’s Destruction of Natural Impulses
Kesey uses mechanical imagery to represent modern society and biological imagery to represent nature. By means of mechanisms and machines, society gains control of and suppresses individuality and natural impulses. The hospital, representative of society at large, is decidedly unnatural: the aides and Nurse Ratched are described as being made of motley machine parts. In Chief Bromden’s dream, when Blastic is disemboweled, rust, not blood, spills out, revealing that the hospital destroyed not only his life but his humanity as well. Bromden’s realization that the hospital treats human beings in an unnatural fashion, and his concomitant growing self-awareness, occur as a surrounding fog dissipates. It is no surprise that Bromden believes this fog is a construction of machines controlled by the hospital and by Nurse Ratched.
Bromden, as the son of an Indian chief, is a combination of pure, natural individuality and a spirit almost completely subverted by mechanized society. Early on, he had free will, and he can remember and describe going hunting in the woods with his relatives and the way they spear salmon. The government, however, eventually succeeds in paying off the tribe so their fishing area can be converted into a profitable hydroelectric dam. The tribe members are banished into the technological workforce, where they become “hypnotized by routine,” like the “half-life things” that Bromden witnesses coming out of the train while he is on fishing excursions. In the novel’s present time, Bromden himself ends up semi-catatonic and paranoid, a mechanical drone who is still able to think and conjecture to some extent on his own.
McMurphy represents unbridled individuality and free expression—both intellectual and sexual. One idea presented in this novel is that a man’s virility is equated with a state of nature, and the state of civilized society requires that he be desexualized. But McMurphy battles against letting the oppressive society make him into a machinelike drone, and he manages to maintain his individuality until his ultimate objective—bringing this individuality to the others—is complete. However, when his wildness is provoked one too many times by Nurse Ratched, he ends up being destroyed by modern society’s machines of oppression.
The Importance of Expressing Sexuality
It is implied throughout the novel that a healthy expression of sexuality is a key component of sanity, and that repression of sexuality leads directly to insanity. Most of the patients have warped sexual identities because of damaging relationships with women. Perverted sexual expressions are said to take place in the ward: the aides supposedly engage in illicit “sex acts” that nobody witnesses, and on several occasions it is suggested that they rape patients, such as Taber, with Ratched’s implicit permission, symbolized by the jar of Vaseline she leaves with them. Add to that the castrating power of Nurse Ratched, and the ward is left with, as Harding says, “comical little creatures who can’t even achieve masculinity in the rabbit world.” Missing from the halls of the mental hospital are healthy, natural expressions of sexuality between two people.
McMurphy’s bold assertion of his sexuality, symbolized from the start by his playing cards depicting fifty-two sexual positions, his pride in having had a voracious fifteen-year-old lover, and his Moby-Dick boxer shorts, clashes with the sterile and sexless ward that Nurse Ratched tries to maintain. We learn that McMurphy first had sex at age ten with a girl perhaps even younger, and that her dress from that momentous occasion, which inspired him to become a “dedicated lover,” still hangs outdoors for everyone to see. McMurphy’s refusal to conform to society mirrors his refusal to desexualize himself, and the sexuality exuding from his personality is like a dress waving in the wind like a flag.
McMurphy attempts to cure Billy Bibbit of his stutter by arranging for him to lose his virginity with Candy. Instead, Billy gets shamed into suicide by the puritanical Ratched. By the end of the novel, McMurphy has been beaten into the ground to the point that he resorts to sexual violence—which had never been a part of his persona previous to being committed, despite Nurse Pilbow’s fears—by ripping open Ratched’s uniform.
False Diagnoses of Insanity
McMurphy’s sanity, symbolized by his free laughter, open sexuality, strength, size, and confidence, stands in contrast to what Kesey implies, ironically and tragically, is an insane institution. Nurse Ratched tells another nurse that McMurphy seems to be a manipulator, just like a former patient, Maxwell Taber. Taber, Bromden explains, was a “big, griping Acute” who once asked a nurse what kind of medication he was being given. He was subjected to electroshock treatments and possibly brain work, which left him docile and unable to think. The insanity of the institution is foregrounded when a man who asks a simple question is tortured and rendered inhuman. It is a Catch-22: only a sane man would question an irrational system, but the act of questioning means his sanity will inevitably be compromised.
Throughout the novel, the sane actions of men contrast with the insane actions of the institution. At the end of Part II, when McMurphy and the patients stage a protest against Nurse Ratched for not letting them watch the World Series, a sensible request for which McMurphy generates a sensible solution, she loses control and, as Bromden notes, looks as crazy as they do. Moreover, Kesey encourages the reader to consider the value of alternative states of perception, which some people also might consider crazy. For instance, Bromden’s hallucinations about hidden machinery may seem crazy, but in actuality they reveal his insight into the hospital’s insidious power over the patients.
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In addition, when the patients go on the fishing excursion they discover that mental illness can have an aspect of power in that they can intimidate the station attendants with their insanity. Harding gives Hitler as an example in discussing Ratched, suggesting that she, like Hitler, is a psychopath who has discovered how to use her insanity to her advantage. Bromden, at one point, thinks to himself, “You’re making sense, old man, a sense of your own. You’re not crazy the way they think.” “[C]razy the way they think,” however, is all that matters in this hospital. The authority figures decide who is sane and who is insane, and by deciding it, they make it reality.
MOTIFS.
Invisibility
Many important elements in the novel are either hidden from view or invisible. For example, Bromden tries to be as invisible as possible. He has achieved this invisibility by pretending not to understand what is going on around him, so people notice him less and less. Moreover, he imagines a fog surrounding him that hides him and keeps him safe. He keeps both his body and his mind hidden.
Bromden’s hallucinations about hidden machines that control the patients call attention to the fact that the power over the patients is usually covert. He imagines that the patients are implanted with tiny machines that record and control their movements from the inside. The truth is that Nurse Ratched manages to rule by insinuation, without ever having to be explicit about her accusations and threats, so it seems as though the patients themselves have absorbed her influence—she becomes a sort of twisted conscience.
When McMurphy smashes through the glass window of the Nurses’ Station, his excuse is that the glass was so clean he could not see it. By smashing it, he reminds the patients that although they cannot always see Ratched’s or society’s manipulation, it still operates on them.
The Power of Laughter
The power of laughter resonates throughout the novel. McMurphy’s laughter is the first genuine laughter heard on the ward in years. McMurphy’s first inkling that things are strange among the patients is that none of them are able to laugh; they can only smile and snicker behind their hands. Bromden remembers a scene from his childhood when his father and relatives mocked some government officials, and he realizes how powerful their laughter was: “I forget sometimes what laughter can do.” For McMurphy, laughter is a potent defense against society’s insanity, and anyone who cannot laugh properly has no chance of surviving. By the end of the fishing trip, Harding, Scanlon, Doctor Spivey, and Sefelt are all finally able to participate in real, thunderous laughter, a sign of their physical and psychological recovery.
Real Versus Imagined Size
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Bromden describes people by their true size, not merely their physical size. Kesey implies that when people allow others, such as governments and institutions, to define their worth, they can end up far from their natural state. Nurse Ratched’s true size, for example, is “big as a tractor,” because she is powerful and unstoppable. Bromden, though he is six feet seven inches tall, feels much smaller and weaker. He tells McMurphy, “I used to be big, but not no more.” As for McMurphy, Bromden says he is “broad as Papa was tall,” and his father was named The Pine That Stands Tallest on the Mountain. Bromden says his mother was twice the size of he and his father put together, because she belittled them both so much. With McMurphy’s help, Bromden is gradually “blown back up to full size” as he regains his self-esteem, sexuality, and individuality.
SYMBOLS.
The Fog Machine
Fog is a phenomenon that clouds our vision of the world. In this novel, fogs symbolize a lack of insight and an escape from reality. When Bromden starts to slip away from reality, because of his medication or out of fear, he hallucinates fog drifting into the ward. He imagines that there are hidden fog machines in the vents and that they are controlled by the staff. Although it can be frightening at times, Bromden considers the fog to be a safe place; he can hide in it and ignore reality. Beyond what it means for Bromden, the fog represents the state of mind that Ratched imposes on the patients with her strict, mind-numbing routines and humiliating treatment. When McMurphy arrives, he drags all the patients out of the fog.
McMurphy’s Boxer Shorts

McMurphy’s boxer shorts are black satin with a pattern of white whales with red eyes. A literature major gave them to him, saying that McMurphy is himself a symbol. The shorts, of course, are also highly symbolic. First, the white whales call to mind Moby-Dick, one of the most potent symbols in American literature. One common interpretation of Moby-Dick is that the whale is a phallic symbol, which obviously suggests McMurphy’s blatant sexuality—the little white whales cover McMurphy’s underwear, which he gleefully reveals to Nurse Ratched. Moby-Dick also represents the pervasive evil that inspires Ahab’s obsessive, futile pursuit. Here, the implication is that McMurphy is to Ratched as Moby-Dick is to Ahab. A third interpretation is that Moby-Dick stands for the power of nature, signifying McMurphy’s untamed nature that conflicts with the controlled institution. Also, in Melville’s novel Moby-Dick is associated with God, which resonates with McMurphy’s role as a Christ figure. Finally, the whale boxer shorts poke fun at academia and its elaborate interpretations of symbols.
The Electroshock Therapy Table
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The electroshock therapy table is explicitly associated with crucifixion. It is shaped like a cross, with straps across the wrists and over the head. Moreover, the table performs a function similar to the public crucifixions of Roman times. Ellis, Ruckly, and Taber—Acutes whose lives were destroyed by electroshock therapy—serve as public examples of what happens to those who rebel against the ruling powers. Ellis makes the reference explicit: he is actually nailed to the wall. This foreshadows that McMurphy, who is associated with Christ images, will be sacrificed.
QUOTATION.
While McMurphy laughs. Rocking farther and farther backward against the cabin top, spreading his laugh out across the water—laughing at the girl, the guys, at George, at me sucking my bleeding thumb, at the captain back at the pier and the bicycle rider and the service-station guys and the five thousand houses and the Big Nurse and all of it. Because he knows you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.
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While on the fishing expedition, the patients are able to laugh freely and feel like whole humans again. As usual, this happens with McMurphy’s guidance—he is an example for all the patients to follow. Here, Bromden shows how McMurphy’s booming laughter in the face of chaos, which could be seen as the mark of a psychopath, is the one thing that keeps McMurphy sane. Bromden implies that it is the pressures of society—the captain, the five thousand houses, the Big Nurse, “the things that hurt you”—that drive people insane. To maintain sanity in such an oppressive and cruel world, people cannot allow these external forces to exert too much power. When a person succumbs to seeing and experiencing all the sadness and suffering of humanity, as Bromden has done for ten years, it naturally makes him or her unable, or unwilling, to cope with reality—in other words, it can make that person “plumb crazy.”

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Edward Albee. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962).
BIOGRAPHY.
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Edward Franklin Albee III (1928) is an American playwright who is known for works such as The Zoo Story (1958), The Sandbox (1959), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), and a rewrite of the book for the unsuccessful musical Breakfast at Tiffany's (1966), an adaptation of Truman Capote's 1958 novella of the same name. His works are considered well-crafted, often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Jean Genet. Younger American playwrights, such as Paula Vogel, credit Albee's daring mix of theatricality and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theatre in the early 1960s. Albee continues to experiment in works such as The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? (2002).
PLOT.
The play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is set on the campus of a small, New England university. It opens with the main characters, George and Martha coming home from a party at her father's house. The two of them clearly care deeply for each other, but events have turned their marriage into a nasty battle between two disenchanted, cynical enemies. Even though the pair arrives home at two o'clock in the morning, they are expecting guests: the new math professor and his wife.
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Of course, as it turns out, this new, young professor, Nick, actually works in the biology department. He and his wife, Honey, walk into a brutal social situation. In the first act, "Fun and Games," Martha and George try to fight and humiliate each other in new, inventive ways. As they peel away each other's pretenses and self-respect, George and Martha use Honey and Nick as pawns, transforming their guests into an audience to witness humiliation, into levers for creating jealousy, and into a means for expressing their own sides of their mutual story. In the second act, "Walpurgisnacht," these games get even nastier. The evening turns into a nightmare. George and Martha even attack Honey and Nick, attempting to force them to reveal their dirty secrets and true selves. Finally, in the last act, "The Exorcism," everyone's secrets have been revealed and purged. Honey and Nick go home, leaving Martha and George to try to rebuild their shattered marriage.
THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
George - A 46-year-old member of the history department at New Carthage University. George is married to Martha, in a once loving relationship now defined by sarcasm and frequent acrimony.
Martha - Martha is the 52-year-old daughter of the president of New Carthage University. She is married to George, though disappointed with his aborted academic career. She attempts to have an affair with Nick.
Nick - Nick has just become a new member of the biology faculty at New Carthage University. He is 28 years old, good-looking, Midwestern, and clean-cut. He is married to Honey.
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Honey - Honey is the petite, bland wife of Nick. She is 26 years old, has a weak stomach, and is not the brightest bulb of the bunch.
THEMES.
Reality and Illusion. While other plays establish the difference reality and illusion respectively, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? starts out with the latter but leans to the former. More specifically, "George and Martha have evaded the ugliness of their marriage by taking refuge in illusion."[2] The disappointment that is their life together leads to the bitterness between them. Having no real bond, or at least none that either are willing to admit, they become dependent upon a fake child. The fabrication of a child, as well as the impact its supposed demise has on Martha, questions the difference between deception and reality. As if to spite their efforts, the contempt that Martha and George have for one another causes the destruction of their illusion. This lack of illusion does not result in any apparent reality. "All truth", as George admits, "[becomes] relative.
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Critique of the Societal Expectations. Christopher Bigsby asserts that this play stands as an opponent of the idea of a perfect American family and societal expectations as it "attacks the false optimism and myopic confidence of modern society".[4] Albee takes a heavy-handed approach to the display of this contrast, making examples out of every character and their own expectations for the people around them. Societal norms of the 1950s consisted of a nuclear family, two parents and a child. This conception was picturesque in the idea that the father was the breadwinner, the mother was a housewife, and the child was well-behaved. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? smashes these conventions and shows realistic families that are far from perfect and possibly ruined. The families of Honey and Martha were dominated by their fathers, there being no sign of a mother-figure in their lives. George and Martha's chance at a perfect family was ruined by infertility and George's failure at becoming a prominent figure at the university. Being just a few of many, these examples directly challenge social expectations both within and outside of a family setting.
Title
The play's title, which alludes to the English novelist Virginia Woolf, is also a reference to the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" from Walt Disney's animated version of The Three Little Pigs. Because the rights to the Disney song are expensive, most stage versions, and the film, have Martha sing to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush", a melody that fits the meter fairly well and is in the public domain. In the first few moments of the play, it is revealed that someone sang the song earlier in the evening at a party, although who first sang it (Martha or some other anonymous party guest) remains unclear. Martha repeatedly needles George over whether he found it funny.
Albee described the inspiration for the title thus: I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who's afraid of Virginia Woolf means who's afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who's afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke.[5]
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Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesman (1949).

FULL TITLE · Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem

AUTHOR · Arthur Miller

TYPE OF WORK · Play

GENRE · Tragedy, social commentary, family drama

LANGUAGE · English (with emphasis on middle-class American lingo)

TIME AND PLACE WRITTEN · Six weeks in 1948, in a shed in Connecticut

DATE OF FIRST PUBLICATION · 1949

ORIGINAL PUBLISHER · The Viking Press

CLIMAX · The scene in Frank’s Chop House and Biff’s final confrontation with Willy at home

PROTAGONISTS · Willy Loman, Biff Loman

ANTAGONISTS · Biff Loman, Willy Loman, the American Dream

SETTING (TIME) · “Today,” that is, the present; either the late 1940s or the time period in which the play is being produced, with “daydreams” into Willy’s past; all of the action takes place during a twenty-four-hour period between Monday night and Tuesday night, except the “Requiem,” which takes place, presumably, a few days after Willy’s funeral

SETTING (PLACE) · According to the stage directions, “Willy Loman’s house and yard [in Brooklyn] and . . . various places he visits in . . . New York and Boston”

FALLING ACTION · The “Requiem” section, although the play is not really structured as a classical drama

TENSE · Present

FORESHADOWING · Willy’s flute theme foreshadows the revelation of his father’s occupation and abandonment; Willy’s preoccupation with Linda’s stockings foreshadows his affair with The Woman; Willy’s automobile accident before the start of Act I foreshadows his suicide at the end of Act II

TONE · The tone of Miller’s stage directions and dialogue ranges from sincere to parodying, but, in general, the treatment is tender, though at times brutally honest, toward Willy’s plight

THEMES · The American Dream; abandonment; betrayal

MOTIFS · Mythic figures; the American West; Alaska; the African jungle

SYMBOLS · Seeds; diamonds; Linda’s and The Woman’s stockings; the rubber hose

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BIOGRAPHY.

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Arthur Asher Miller (1915-2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and prominent figure in twentieth-century American theatre. Among his plays are All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953) and A View from the Bridge (1955, revised 1956). He also wrote the screenplay for the film The Misfits (1961). Miller was often in the public eye, particularly during the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s. During this time, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee; and was married to Marilyn Monroe. He received the Prince of Asturias Award in 2002 and Jerusalem Prize in 2003. Miller died of heart failure after a battle against cancer, pneumonia and congestive heart disease at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. He had been in hospice care at his sister's apartment in New York since his release from hospital the previous month. He died on the evening of February 10, 2005 (the 56th anniversary of the Broadway debut of Death of a Salesman), aged 89, surrounded by Barley, family and friends. He is interred at Roxbury Center Cemetery in Roxbury.
PLOT.
As a flute melody plays, Willy Loman returns to his home in Brooklyn one night, exhausted from a failed sales trip. His wife, Linda, tries to persuade him to ask his boss, Howard Wagner, to let him work in New York so that he won’t have to travel. Willy says that he will talk to Howard the next day. Willy complains that Biff, his older son who has come back home to visit, has yet to make something of himself. Linda scolds Willy for being so critical, and Willy goes to the kitchen for a snack.
As Willy talks to himself in the kitchen, Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is also visiting, reminisce about their adolescence and discuss their father’s babbling, which often includes criticism of Biff’s failure to live up to Willy’s expectations. As Biff and Happy, dissatisfied with their lives, fantasize about buying a ranch out West, Willy becomes immersed in a daydream. He praises his sons, now younger, who are washing his car. The young Biff, a high school football star, and the young Happy appear. They interact affectionately with their father, who has just returned from a business trip. Willy confides in Biff and Happy that he is going to open his own business one day, bigger than that owned by his neighbor, Charley. Charley’s son, Bernard, enters looking for Biff, who must study for math class in order to avoid failing. Willy points out to his sons that although Bernard is smart, he is not “well liked,” which will hurt him in the long run.
A younger Linda enters, and the boys leave to do some chores. Willy boasts of a phenomenally successful sales trip, but Linda coaxes him into revealing that his trip was actually only meagerly successful. Willy complains that he soon won’t be able to make all of the payments on their appliances and car. He complains that people don’t like him and that he’s not good at his job. As Linda consoles him, he hears the laughter of his mistress. He approaches The Woman, who is still laughing, and engages in another reminiscent daydream. Willy and The Woman flirt, and she thanks him for giving her stockings.
The Woman disappears, and Willy fades back into his prior daydream, in the kitchen. Linda, now mending stockings, reassures him. He scolds her mending and orders her to throw the stockings out. Bernard bursts in, again looking for Biff. Linda reminds Willy that Biff has to return a football that he stole, and she adds that Biff is too rough with the neighborhood girls. Willy hears The Woman laugh and explodes at Bernard and Linda. Both leave, and though the daydream ends, Willy continues to mutter to himself. The older Happy comes downstairs and tries to quiet Willy. Agitated, Willy shouts his regret about not going to Alaska with his brother, Ben, who eventually found a diamond mine in Africa and became rich. Charley, having heard the commotion, enters. Happy goes off to bed, and Willy and Charley begin to play cards. Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy, insulted, refuses it. As they argue, Willy imagines that Ben enters. Willy accidentally calls Charley Ben. Ben inspects Willy’s house and tells him that he has to catch a train soon to look at properties in Alaska. As Willy talks to Ben about the prospect of going to Alaska, Charley, seeing no one there, gets confused and questions Willy. Willy yells at Charley, who leaves. The younger Linda enters and Ben meets her. Willy asks Ben impatiently about his life. Ben recounts his travels and talks about their father. As Ben is about to leave, Willy daydreams further, and Charley and Bernard rush in to tell him that Biff and Happy are stealing lumber. Although Ben eventually leaves, Willy continues to talk to him.
Back in the present, the older Linda enters to find Willy outside. Biff and Happy come downstairs and discuss Willy’s condition with their mother. Linda scolds Biff for judging Willy harshly. Biff tells her that he knows Willy is a fake, but he refuses to elaborate. Linda mentions that Willy has tried to commit suicide. Happy grows angry and rebukes Biff for his failure in the business world. Willy enters and yells at Biff. Happy intervenes and eventually proposes that he and Biff go into the sporting goods business together. Willy immediately brightens and gives Biff a host of tips about asking for a loan from one of Biff’s old employers, Bill Oliver. After more arguing and reconciliation, everyone finally goes to bed.
Act II opens with Willy enjoying the breakfast that Linda has made for him. Willy ponders the bright-seeming future before getting angry again about his expensive appliances. Linda informs Willy that Biff and Happy are taking him out to dinner that night. Excited, Willy announces that he is going to make Howard Wagner give him a New York job. The phone rings, and Linda chats with Biff, reminding him to be nice to his father at the restaurant that night.
As the lights fade on Linda, they come up on Howard playing with a wire recorder in his office. Willy tries to broach the subject of working in New York, but Howard interrupts him and makes him listen to his kids and wife on the wire recorder. When Willy finally gets a word in, Howard rejects his plea. Willy launches into a lengthy recalling of how a legendary salesman named Dave Singleman inspired him to go into sales. Howard leaves and Willy gets angry. Howard soon re-enters and tells Willy to take some time off. Howard leaves and Ben enters, inviting Willy to join him in Alaska. The younger Linda enters and reminds Willy of his sons and job. The young Biff enters, and Willy praises Biff’s prospects and the fact that he is well liked.
Ben leaves and Bernard rushes in, eagerly awaiting Biff’s big football game. Willy speaks optimistically to Biff about the game. Charley enters and teases Willy about the game. As Willy chases Charley off, the lights rise on a different part of the stage. Willy continues yelling from offstage, and Jenny, Charley’s secretary, asks a grown-up Bernard to quiet him down. Willy enters and prattles on about a “very big deal” that Biff is working on. Daunted by Bernard’s success (he mentions to Willy that he is going to Washington to fight a case), Willy asks Bernard why Biff turned out to be such a failure. Bernard asks Willy what happened in Boston that made Biff decide not to go to summer school. Willy defensively tells Bernard not to blame him.
Charley enters and sees Bernard off. When Willy asks for more money than Charley usually loans him, Charley again offers Willy a job. Willy again refuses and eventually tells Charley that he was fired. Charley scolds Willy for always needing to be liked and angrily gives him the money. Calling Charley his only friend, Willy exits on the verge of tears.
At Frank’s Chop House, Happy helps Stanley, a waiter, prepare a table. They ogle and chat up a girl, Miss Forsythe, who enters the restaurant. Biff enters, and Happy introduces him to Miss Forsythe, continuing to flirt with her. Miss Forsythe, a call girl, leaves to telephone another call girl (at Happy’s request), and Biff spills out that he waited six hours for Bill Oliver and Oliver didn’t even recognize him. Upset at his father’s unrelenting misconception that he, Biff, was a salesman for Oliver, Biff plans to relieve Willy of his illusions. Willy enters, and Biff tries gently, at first, to tell him what happened at Oliver’s office. Willy blurts out that he was fired. Stunned, Biff again tries to let Willy down easily. Happy cuts in with remarks suggesting Biff’s success, and Willy eagerly awaits the good news.
Biff finally explodes at Willy for being unwilling to listen. The young Bernard runs in shouting for Linda, and Biff, Happy, and Willy start to argue. As Biff explains what happened, their conversation recedes into the background. The young Bernard tells Linda that Biff failed math. The restaurant conversation comes back into focus and Willy criticizes Biff for failing math. Willy then hears the voice of the hotel operator in Boston and shouts that he is not in his room. Biff scrambles to quiet Willy and claims that Oliver is talking to his partner about giving Biff the money. Willy’s renewed interest and probing questions irk Biff more, and he screams at Willy. Willy hears The Woman laugh and he shouts back at Biff, hitting him and staggering. Miss Forsythe enters with another call girl, Letta. Biff helps Willy to the washroom and, finding Happy flirting with the girls, argues with him about Willy. Biff storms out, and Happy follows with the girls.
Willy and The Woman enter, dressing themselves and flirting. The door knocks and Willy hurries The Woman into the bathroom. Willy answers the door; the young Biff enters and tells Willy that he failed math. Willy tries to usher him out of the room, but Biff imitates his math teacher’s lisp, which elicits laughter from Willy and The Woman. Willy tries to cover up his indiscretion, but Biff refuses to believe his stories and storms out, dejected, calling Willy a “phony little fake.” Back in the restaurant, Stanley helps Willy up. Willy asks him where he can find a seed store. Stanley gives him directions to one, and Willy hurries off.
The light comes up on the Loman kitchen, where Happy enters looking for Willy. He moves into the living room and sees Linda. Biff comes inside and Linda scolds the boys and slaps away the flowers in Happy’s hand. She yells at them for abandoning Willy. Happy attempts to appease her, but Biff goes in search of Willy. He finds Willy planting seeds in the garden with a flashlight. Willy is consulting Ben about a $20,000 proposition. Biff approaches him to say goodbye and tries to bring him inside. Willy moves into the house, followed by Biff, and becomes angry again about Biff’s failure. Happy tries to calm Biff, but Biff and Willy erupt in fury at each other. Biff starts to sob, which touches Willy. Everyone goes to bed except Willy, who renews his conversation with Ben, elated at how great Biff will be with $20,000 of insurance money. Linda soon calls out for Willy but gets no response. Biff and Happy listen as well. They hear Willy’s car speed away.
-------------------------------------------------
In the requiem, Linda and Happy stand in shock after Willy’s poorly attended funeral. Biff states that Willy had the wrong dreams. Charley defends Willy as a victim of his profession. Ready to leave, Biff invites Happy to go back out West with him. Happy declares that he will stick it out in New York to validate Willy’s death. Linda asks Willy for forgiveness for being unable to cry. She begins to sob, repeating “We’re free. . . .” All exit, and the flute melody is heard as the curtain falls.

THE MAIN CHARACTERS.
Willy Loman
Despite his desperate searching through his past, Willy does not achieve the self-realization or self-knowledge typical of the tragic hero. The quasi-resolution that his suicide offers him represents only a partial discovery of the truth. While he achieves a professional understanding of himself and the fundamental nature of the sales profession, Willy fails to realize his personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal “loman” or “low man.” Willy is too driven by his own “willy”-ness or perverse “willfulness” to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged. Still, many critics, focusing on Willy’s entrenchment in a quagmire of lies, delusions, and self-deceptions, ignore the significant accomplishment of his partial self-realization. Willy’s failure to recognize the anguished love offered to him by his family is crucial to the climax of his torturous day, and the play presents this incapacity as the real tragedy. Despite this failure, Willy makes the most extreme sacrifice in his attempt to leave an inheritance that will allow Biff to fulfill the American Dream.
Ben’s final mantra—“The jungle is dark, but full of diamonds”—turns Willy’s suicide into a metaphorical moral struggle, a final skewed ambition to realize his full commercial and material capacity. His final act, according to Ben, is “not like an appointment at all” but like a “diamond . . . rough and hard to the touch.” In the absence of any real degree of self-knowledge or truth, Willy is able to achieve a tangible result. In some respect, Willy does experience a sort of revelation, as he finally comes to understand that the product he sells is himself. Through the imaginary advice of Ben, Willy ends up fully believing his earlier assertion to Charley that “after all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.”
Biff Loman
Unlike Willy and Happy, Biff feels compelled to seek the truth about himself. While his father and brother are unable to accept the miserable reality of their respective lives, Biff acknowledges his failure and eventually manages to confront it. Even the difference between his name and theirs reflects this polarity: whereas Willy and Happy willfully and happily delude themselves, Biff bristles stiffly at self-deception. Biff’s discovery that Willy has a mistress strips him of his faith in Willy and Willy’s ambitions for him. Consequently, Willy sees Biff as an underachiever, while Biff sees himself as trapped in Willy’s grandiose fantasies. After his epiphany in Bill Oliver’s office, Biff determines to break through the lies surrounding the Loman family in order to come to realistic terms with his own life. Intent on revealing the simple and humble truth behind Willy’s fantasy, Biff longs for the territory (the symbolically free West) obscured by his father’s blind faith in a skewed, materialist version of the American Dream. Biff’s identity crisis is a function of his and his father’s disillusionment, which, in order to reclaim his identity, he must expose.
Happy Loman
Happy shares none of the poetry that erupts from Biff and that is buried in Willy—he is the stunted incarnation of Willy’s worst traits and the embodiment of the lie of the happy American Dream. As such, Happy is a difficult character with whom to empathize. He is one-dimensional and static throughout the play. His empty vow to avenge Willy’s death by finally “beat[ing] this racket” provides evidence of his critical condition: for Happy, who has lived in the shadow of the inflated expectations of his brother, there is no escape from the Dream’s indoctrinated lies. Happy’s diseased condition is irreparable—he lacks even the tiniest spark of self-knowledge or capacity for self-analysis. He does share Willy’s capacity for self-delusion, trumpeting himself as the assistant buyer at his store, when, in reality, he is only an assistant to the assistant buyer. He does not possess a hint of the latent thirst for knowledge that proves Biff’s salvation. Happy is a doomed, utterly duped figure, destined to be swallowed up by the force of blind ambition that fuels his insatiable sex drive.
Linda Loman and Charley
Linda and Charley serve as forces of reason throughout the play. Linda is probably the most enigmatic and complex character in Death of a Salesman, or even in all of Miller’s work. Linda views freedom as an escape from debt, the reward of total ownership of the material goods that symbolize success and stability. Willy’s prolonged obsession with the American Dream seems, over the long years of his marriage, to have left Linda internally conflicted. Nevertheless, Linda, by far the toughest, most realistic, and most levelheaded character in the play, appears to have kept her emotional life intact. As such, she represents the emotional core of the drama.
If Linda is a sort of emotional prophet, overcome by the inevitable end that she foresees with startling clarity, then Charley functions as a sort of poetic prophet or sage. Miller portrays Charley as ambiguously gendered or effeminate, much like Tiresias, the mythological seer in Sophocles’ Oedipus plays. Whereas Linda’s lucid diagnosis of Willy’s rapid decline is made possible by her emotional sanity, Charley’s prognosis of the situation is logical, grounded firmly in practical reasoned analysis. He recognizes Willy’s financial failure, and the job offer that he extends to Willy constitutes a commonsense solution. Though he is not terribly fond of Willy, Charley understands his plight and shields him from blame.
-------------------------------------------------

Themes
The American Dream
Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of the American Dream—that a “well liked” and “personally attractive” man in business will indubitably and deservedly acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. Oddly, his fixation with the superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability is at odds with a more gritty, more rewarding understanding of the American Dream that identifies hard work without complaint as the key to success. Willy’s interpretation of likeability is superficial—he childishly dislikes Bernard because he considers Bernard a nerd. Willy’s blind faith in his stunted version of the American Dream leads to his rapid psychological decline when he is unable to accept the disparity between the Dream and his own life.

Abandonment
Willy’s life charts a course from one abandonment to the next, leaving him in greater despair each time. Willy’s father leaves him and Ben when Willy is very young, leaving Willy neither a tangible (money) nor an intangible (history) legacy. Ben eventually departs for Alaska, leaving Willy to lose himself in a warped vision of the American Dream. Likely a result of these early experiences, Willy develops a fear of abandonment, which makes him want his family to conform to the American Dream. His efforts to raise perfect sons, however, reflect his inability to understand reality. The young Biff, whom Willy considers the embodiment of promise, drops Willy and Willy’s zealous ambitions for him when he finds out about Willy’s adultery. Biff’s ongoing inability to succeed in business furthers his estrangement from Willy. When, at Frank’s Chop House, Willy finally believes that Biff is on the cusp of greatness, Biff shatters Willy’s illusions and, along with Happy, abandons the deluded, babbling Willy in the washroom.
Betrayal
-------------------------------------------------
Willy’s primary obsession throughout the play is what he considers to be Biff’s betrayal of his ambitions for him. Willy believes that he has every right to expect Biff to fulfill the promise inherent in him. When Biff walks out on Willy’s ambitions for him, Willy takes this rejection as a personal affront (he associates it with “insult” and “spite”). Willy, after all, is a salesman, and Biff’s ego-crushing rebuff ultimately reflects Willy’s inability to sell him on the American Dream—the product in which Willy himself believes most faithfully. Willy assumes that Biff’s betrayal stems from Biff’s discovery of Willy’s affair with The Woman—a betrayal of Linda’s love. Whereas Willy feels that Biff has betrayed him, Biff feels that Willy, a “phony little fake,” has betrayed him with his unending stream of ego-stroking lies.
MOTIFS.
Mythic Figures
Willy’s tendency to mythologize people contributes to his deluded understanding of the world. He speaks of Dave Singleman as a legend and imagines that his death must have been beautifully noble. Willy compares Biff and Happy to the mythic Greek figures Adonis and Hercules because he believes that his sons are pinnacles of “personal attractiveness” and power through “well liked”-ness; to him, they seem the very incarnation of the American Dream.
Willy’s mythologizing proves quite nearsighted, however. Willy fails to realize the hopelessness of Singleman’s lonely, on-the-job, on-the-road death. Trying to achieve what he considers to be Singleman’s heroic status, Willy commits himself to a pathetic death and meaningless legacy (even if Willy’s life insurance policy ends up paying off, Biff wants nothing to do with Willy’s ambition for him). Similarly, neither Biff nor Happy ends up leading an ideal, godlike life; while Happy does believe in the American Dream, it seems likely that he will end up no better off than the decidedly ungodlike Willy.
The American West, Alaska, and the African Jungle
-------------------------------------------------
These regions represent the potential of instinct to Biff and Willy. Willy’s father found success in Alaska and his brother, Ben, became rich in Africa; these exotic locales, especially when compared to Willy’s banal Brooklyn neighborhood, crystallize how Willy’s obsession with the commercial world of the city has trapped him in an unpleasant reality. Whereas Alaska and the African jungle symbolize Willy’s failure, the American West, on the other hand, symbolizes Biff’s potential. Biff realizes that he has been content only when working on farms, out in the open. His westward escape from both Willy’s delusions and the commercial world of the eastern United States suggests a nineteenth-century pioneer mentality—Biff, unlike Willy, recognizes the importance of the individual.

SYMBOLS
Seeds
Seeds represent for Willy the opportunity to prove the worth of his labor, both as a salesman and a father. His desperate, nocturnal attempt to grow vegetables signifies his shame about barely being able to put food on the table and having nothing to leave his children when he passes. Willy feels that he has worked hard but fears that he will not be able to help his offspring any more than his own abandoning father helped him. The seeds also symbolize Willy’s sense of failure with Biff. Despite the American Dream’s formula for success, which Willy considers infallible, Willy’s efforts to cultivate and nurture Biff went awry. Realizing that his all-American football star has turned into a lazy bum, Willy takes Biff’s failure and lack of ambition as a reflection of his abilities as a father.
Diamonds
To Willy, diamonds represent tangible wealth and, hence, both validation of one’s labor (and life) and the ability to pass material goods on to one’s offspring, two things that Willy desperately craves. Correlatively, diamonds, the discovery of which made Ben a fortune, symbolize Willy’s failure as a salesman. Despite Willy’s belief in the American Dream, a belief unwavering to the extent that he passed up the opportunity to go with Ben to Alaska, the Dream’s promise of financial security has eluded Willy. At the end of the play, Ben encourages Willy to enter the “jungle” finally and retrieve this elusive diamond—that is, to kill himself for insurance money in order to make his life meaningful.

Linda’s and The Woman’s Stockings
Willy’s strange obsession with the condition of Linda’s stockings foreshadows his later flashback to Biff’s discovery of him and The Woman in their Boston hotel room. The teenage Biff accuses Willy of giving away Linda’s stockings to The Woman. Stockings assume a metaphorical weight as the symbol of betrayal and sexual infidelity. New stockings are important for both Willy’s pride in being financially successful and thus able to provide for his family and for Willy’s ability to ease his guilt about, and suppress the memory of, his betrayal of Linda and Biff.
The Rubber Hose
-------------------------------------------------
The rubber hose is a stage prop that reminds the audience of Willy’s desperate attempts at suicide. He has apparently attempted to kill himself by inhaling gas, which is, ironically, the very substance essential to one of the most basic elements with which he must equip his home for his family’s health and comfort—heat. Literal death by inhaling gas parallels the metaphorical death that Willy feels in his struggle to afford such a basic necessity
QUOTATION.
Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.
-------------------------------------------------
After the climax in Frank’s Chop House, in Act II, Willy, talking to Stanley, suddenly fixates on buying seeds to plant a garden in his diminutive, dark backyard because he does not have “a thing in the ground.” The garden functions as a last-ditch substitute for Willy’s failed career and Biff’s dissipated ambition. Willy realizes, at least metaphorically, that he has no tangible proof of his life’s work. While he is planting the seeds and conversing with Ben, he worries that “a man can’t go out the way he came in,” that he has to “add up to something.” His preoccupation with material evidence of success belies his very profession, which necessitates the ability to sell one’s own, intangible image. The seeds symbolize Willy’s failure in other ways as well. The fact that Willy uses gardening as a metaphor for success and failure indicates that he subconsciously acknowledges that his chosen profession is a poor choice, given his natural inclinations. Though his figurative roots are in sales (Ben claims that their father was a successful salesman), Willy never blossomed into the Dave Singleman figure that he idolizes.

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