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Oleanna: Themes

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on 3 October 2013

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Transcript of Oleanna: Themes

Oleanna: Themes
- Purpose, perceptions and idea of education blurred.
> Intended purpose: to educate; to empower.
> Actual purpose (arguably): to measure wealth and class.

- Perceptions
> Dichotomy represented by John - teacher who derides the system yet desires for its material benefits.
> Fetishized by Carol - a golden bull that will grant her success in society.
- Divergent views converge in the symbol of the grade 'A'.
> John - trivial letter - disenchanted with system.
> Carol - determinant of future - consumed by system.

Double-edged blade
- instrument of equality
- tool of discrimination

Question: Education v. learning
- Pervades every exchange. Dialogue mimics a battlefield.

- Combatants representing different worldviews. John v. Carol in
status quo i.e. materialism; institutionalism v. radical idealism; feminism.
> Digression: John implies that he is a maverick by criticizing the very system by which he achieved his success and which he is an eminent member of. Is this not quite a contradiction?
> Digression II: In Act II, Carol seems to be a very idealistic person with only idealistic aims at heart; yet what does she have to gain from his dismissal? Arguably, the sense of righteousness as a reward will only last so long. What then, is her final, true goal?
Power (cont.)
- Power associated with institutions. Almost like John and Carol are merely pawns of immense, faceless systems.
> Act I - Power with John. John represents system. Carol is lone supplicant.
> Acts II & III - Power with Carol. Carol represents feminist group, which is more radical and flexible than the ossified institution of education John belongs to.
Occurs within parameters of social conventions.
- Power outside of society
> Last page: ability of an individual to exert force over another.

Power reveals a startling truth in human nature: our abilities to shed whatever beliefs we have, whatever morals we may lionize in order to survive.
Characters of John and Carol undergo sudden and violent changes.

John -
1) benevolent teacher-figure
2) appears that there might be a ulterior, sexual motive

Shows that there are vast chasms within even one character.

John rails against the materialistic nature of the education system yet still desires the material goods it offers.

Strong notions of justice that leave his mind when he beats Carol.

Carol -

Naïve girl to Machiavellian power-player in the span of a mere 47 pages.

Humans are venal creatures. QED
By Brandon Mok
Russian doll:

Education as an instrument of power. Power to expose human duplicity.

Mimic the idea of "layers" of civilization concealing our animal natures?
Oleanna at the Black Box Theatre, St. Thomas University.
Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman in the 2009 Broadway production of “Oleanna.”

Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman in the 2009 Broadway production of “Oleanna.”
Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman in the 2009 Broadway production of “Oleanna.”
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