Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Tennessee Williams' a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Words communicate ideas but beautiful words live forever and may keep telling a different story every time. The English literature has a rich heritage of dramas and plays that are often written in early or mid-20th century yet they are as applicable today as they were at the time these were written. The two texts are taken for psychoanalysis namely Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee and A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams. The dramas are plotted against the American modern lifestyle where people have issues in their relationships as well as work life that affects the quality of life. The Lacanian psychoanalysis approach is used to comment on the two texts. This approach guides that the human conscious self is different from the unconscious self. Also this approach tells that if a person wants to understand true psychology of a man, he needs to see what the man is hiding. And normally one can find true secrets in the unconscious of a person. Thus, the Lacanian approach does not only believe in what the person says in his conscious state of mind without understanding it in the light of his unconscious behavior. While a person uses words and sentences to express conscious ideas, he uses real and imaginary symbols to express his unconscious thoughts. While the dramas advocate that the characters in the stories are psychologically not unified, it is not something unusual. Human beings generally lead split-lives and it is ordinary to have fragmented selves. Even these fragments of a self often collide with each other but this is the reality. Man can surrender to the fragmented life and psychologically partial self so as to accept his weaknesses and enjoy relationships rather regretting them.
Keywords: A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Edward Albee, Lacanian psychoanalysis approach, Tennessee Williams, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
The psychoanalysis, as the name suggests, deals with assessment of psychology of something. The approach involves set of psychological as w ell as psychotherapeutic theories that were initially forwarded by Sigmund Freud determine how personality is composed not only of inherited characteristics but also the events since a man's childhood. The approach also suggests that behavior, experience and cognition of a person are up to much extent based on the irrational drives that are predominantly unconscious. The psychoanalysis theory aims to make these unconscious irrational desires a part of awareness and also acknowledges that conflict between unconscious and conscious drives can cause mental imbalances and disturbances.
The psychoanalysis is thus an approach that offers psychological treatment to analytic patient by verbalizing their thoughts by means of liberating associations, fantasies, and dreams thus the unconscious conflicts are induced to reveal symptoms of mental disturbance so that they can be treated. The psychoanalyst understands irrational defenses, wishes and guilt of the patient and describes how people can be enemy of their own. The psychoanalysis shows how different we are from our selves i.e. conscious us is far different than the unconscious us.
Lacanian psychoanalysis approach
Lacan or Jacques Marie Emile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst. He believed that the reality can never be fully expressed in words and language. Lucan based his psychoanalysis theory on the Freud's work. He did not try to find a connection between psychoanalysis with the social theory. He focused his efforts on the desires of people and called it a subject of social interaction (Literary Theory and Criticism, 2011). He said that the desire is stated by means of language, culture and the connection among people. He concentrated on the deep human structures of sexuality and gender and studied how human are different from themselves. He was criticized for using sex as a means of understanding psychology of patients too. He wanted to use the unconscious mode of human beings for understanding their psychology like Freud and not the conscious part because people can lie in consciousness but their unconscious never lies. This is often considered an aggressive approach since entering the world on unconscious of a person is a tough game. Humans are fragmented in their conscious and unconscious beings and thus they are different than themselves which everybody does not accept easily.
The Lacanian psychoanalysis approach is often considered coldblooded because it aggressively challenges the sense of completeness. This approach considers that the self-mastery is an illusion and the ego of a person is his self-justifying deceit and a man uses it as a way of resistance to change. The approach says that the people fear of breakdown and fragmentation thus they imagine themselves as an imaginary being that splits their personality. The Lacan approach deals with conversion and change of a human being not by a gradual move towards ending rather than by ending the psychoanalysis session at once.
Lacan approach introduces the linguistic domination. It is a desire developed through language. The signifier and signified of the Saussure are the psychic elements formed by interplay. He is convinced that the subject explains itself within language and it depends on the signifier. The language often disguises impracticality of desire. Lacan take unconscious as an inter-subjective space between individuals and exists in a structured manner. He believes that in early age of a human being, a person receives desire from the mother and does not act as an agent of symbolization. This analysis focuses on analyzing the egotistic delusions of the self. Thus summarizing, the core concentration of Lacan psychoanalysis is on:
De-centering of the subject
Loss and impracticality of cohesive psychic life
Importance of signifier over what is signified
Delicate and unwarranted relationship with people
Themes and Symbols
Theme is the main idea around which the literature revolves. It is not the subject, moral or the hidden idea (MHS Composition Guide, n.a.). The story, dialogues, plot hence everything is arranged such that it supports the main idea the writer wants to communicate. If a reader losses to grasp the main theme of the writing, he actually lost the whole purpose of it. The taste of words and the amusement of sentences remain incomplete if the main theme is not understood. A colorful and romantic appearing story may actually be based on the theme of how people hide their insecurities and sad story may be based on the idea of how glorious past keeps reminding people what they have lost. Thus, the theme is the heart of drama or literature.
The purpose is the power that guides the idea and supports the literature. It guides about why something is written and the topic is so important to be talked about. The symbols are the beauty of literature. They offer a little twist to the plain writing but enhance the charm of the writing, drama or film. A cat, for example, symbolizes feminine delicacy as well as doubts in A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Analysis: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is a play by Edward Albee in 1962. The play was a challenge for the conservative theater. The play was revolutionary in nature. Edward reclaimed the presence of disability in the drama. The author has criticized gender, sexuality, and the values of middle-class bourgeoisie as well. The disability in the play is evident at many places. Some of the disabilities to mention in the play are schizophrenia, alcoholism and dwarfism. Thus nobody is fully composed and everybody leads a fragmented life. The disability results into sharp contrast in the personalities of people thus making them imperfect. The critics have often said that the characters in the play, George and Martha, have pathological behavior. They seem to be arrested emotionally.
At New Cathage University, George is a member of the history department and is 46 years old. George and Martha once have a loving relationship but now there relationship turned to be headed by frequent acrimony and sarcasm. Martha is the president's daughter at New Carthage University and is 52 years old. As George has an aborted academic career so Martha, even married to George, is disappointed with the academic status of George. With Nick, Martha tried to have an affair. Nick who is married to Honey is 28 years old clean-cut, Midwestern and good looking man. In the biological department at New Carthage University, Nick has just joined the faculty. Being 26 years old, Honey is the bland and petite wife of Nick. Not being the brightest bulb in the bunch, Honey has a weak stomach.
Because of the powerful theme 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' touched on, in its time it was the great sensation. To illustrate the inherited tension among the audience and actors, Edward Albee wrote a play rather than composing a short story or a novel. Idea of public and private aspects of the most focused relationship of the society, that is marriage, is bring forth…