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Sidney Miao

on 6 May 2014

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
portrays characters that both embody and reject traditional gender roles
The story takes place at George and Martha's house and given specific hints from the text, we can infer that they are not on the wealthy side of society, so they don't own a huge house and are labeled as being average.
In the play Who's Afraid of a Virginia Woolf, we can examine the use of Marxism through the characters dialog and their way of life.
New Historical Theory
It's main function is to decode the characters psyche and relationships, then proceeding to interpret them. By examining the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, through the lens of psychoanalytic criticism, many of Sigmund Freud’s theories are visible.
In Edward Albee's
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
, it is evident that each character can be categorized to fit in with at least one common Jungian archetype by examining their actions throughout the play.
Readers response is conections the reader makes to the text. There is text- text text-world text-self
States that a girl’s has an unconscious rivalry with her mother for the love of her father.
Electra Complex
The Id
-Martha lures Nick into adultery.

- Her attempt to seduce Nick becomes apart of her many games with George.

-Show's the submissive role of her superego and the dominant role of her id.
In the play
Freud believed that, the girl's desires for affection from their father, gave way to a desire to possess a man like her father later in life.
Electra Complex
- Martha compares the failure of her husband to the success of her Father.

-Martha’s need to find the success of her father in her husband proves Freud's theory.

In the play
-He argued that women are psychologically incapable of moral ethic.

-Believed women struggle to form healthy superegos.

- Correspondingly, Martha exhibits no moral compass.
Freud's Theory
Its role is to gratify our instincts for self-satisfaction without regard for moral restraint.
-Freud said,“In the delusion we emphasize as essential the conflict with reality.”

- Believed that humans used delusions as a way to distance themselves from their real life troubles.

Martha and George create an imaginary son out of desperation to sustain their relationship.

In the play
Honey has convinced herself and her husband, to believe that she is ready to have a child when she isn't.
In the play
Assumes that every work is a product of the historic moment that created it.
new historicists ask, 'How has the event been interpreted?'
and 'What do the interpretations tell us about the interpreters?'
New Historicism holds that we are hopelessly subjective interpreters of what we observe.
Cold War
Russia vs. America and Communism vs. Capitalism
Martha and George fight with Nick
Nick and George debate genetics
The 1950's/American Dream
American dream in the 50's was a happy family and stable job.
George and Martha are neither of these.
They are named after the patriotic couple George and Martha Washington.
The only thing keeping them together is there imaginary son.
The Working Class
George is seen as a working class citizen in the play, working as the head of the History department in the college.
The Author
Edward Albee was apart of the working class in his time and was seen as "average", just like the characters in the play.
Who has the Power?
Martha's father holds the power, we know this because he owns the college that both Nick and George teach at.
Nick is shown as a working class individual as well, working as the head of the biology department.
He is also seen as at the top of the "pyramid", because he is the one that is making large amounts money and holds the most power.
He didn't have the money or the power during his youth years, but as he advanced into his work and started to write novels he became apart of the wealthy class.
George & Martha portray
gender roles
Described as:
cruel and destructive to people around her
loud mouthed, dominating and deluded
Femme Fatale/Hawksian Women, and Unfaithful Wife
Martha holds the power
Nick & Honey portray
gender roles
Honey is a typical female (i.e.housewife)
Nick is a typical male (i.e.has successful career)
a man's worth is determined by success in his career
men must be tough/not emotional
women cannot make their own decisions
emphasized & challenged gender roles created by society
showed how destructive gender expectations can be
men & women are complex - cannot be simply defined as "masculine" or "feminine"
allowed me to appreciate the prominence of gender roles
gender roles are normalized - often not challenged by society
In Conclusion
Described as:
timid, innocent, and plain
deluded and unaware

Archetype: Waif
Described as:
good looking and intelligent
revealed to be deceiving and overly ambitious
Gender Roles/Feminism
Men were meant to have stable jobs and succeed at work.
And the Ideal 50’s woman was
“The suburban housewife…she was healthy, beautiful, educated, concerned only about her husband, her children, her home. She had found true feminine fulfillment.”
(Friedan 18)
Martha married him with the intention for him to be her father's successor
Martha is dominant, she humiliates and belittles him.
Archetype: Tragic Hero
American Dream/1950's
After George informs Martha about the death of their son Martha falls apart sobbing and saying
if there marriage is based on a lie is the American dream also a lie?
Honey and Nick appear to be the perfect couple
but soon their true nature is exposed.

Gender Roles/Feminism
Martha's drinking differ from 1950's norms.
After Martha asks George to make her another drink, George comments saying, “
George: My God, you can swill it down, can’t you
?” (1.17)
Martha even goes so far as to cheat on George while he was in the room.
Martha proves herself to be an very sexual person something which be considered improper in the 50’s.
Had Martha been born a man none of these would be improper.
She could also have been her Father's successor
Described as:
begins passive, deluded, and guarded by sarcasm
disappointed by his lack of success
becomes cruel to show the others reality

Archetype: Anti-hero/Heroic Antagonist
Cold War
There will be…a certain loss of liberty …diversity will no longer be a goal …ants will take over the world
" (1.596)
The ant community is a society that looks out for the whole rather than the individual.
1. Martha seduces Nick
2. Martha is dominant, loud mouthed, and combative with her male counterparts. (Classic characteristics of Hawksian Women)
1. Married Honey for her Money
2. Befriends Martha to get in her father's good side.
1. Confronted Nick and Honey about their relationship
2. Killed Martha and his "son"
1. Honey is blind to see that Nick is taking advantage of her.
2. Throughout the play, Honey is in constant need of help from other characters.
These events help the characters come back to reality.
By examining the play through an archetypal lens:
it is evident that the play uses a large amount of mythical and religious symbolism
eg. Act titles (Walpurgisnaught, The Exorcism)
questions about situations
When Reading You need to think and reflect on ...
Constant fighting but still loving each other
Who is better
All about drinking
Confusing and 'different'
there are some things you can make out.
didn't change at all
Other parts of the house , but the scene wasn't there
Walpurgisnaught festival
long and had unnecessary reading
it was hard to enjoy because i couldn't relate to the characters easily
I have learned:
Most characters in literary works are based off Jungian archetypes
A characters actions and decisions can be predicted through analyzing their archetypes
The same archetypes appear in current and old literature
Carl Jung
Readers Response
Because readers response is specialized to one readers views, doesn't mean that everyone sees the same as I did while reading this.
Through examining the play, "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf" through the lens of Psychoanalytic criticism, one can see that it reflects many of Sigmund Freud's theories.
In Conclusion...
Looking at the class structures in a piece of literature.
Full transcript