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THE GELLBURG MARRIAGE
Transcript of THE GELLBURG MARRIAGE
CREATED BY: DYER AND JACKSON
GOALS: HYMAN SEEKS TO RESTORE SYLVIA TO HEALTH
Harry seeks to cure Sylvia's hysterical paralysis, and having identified the problem, finds himself in a moral dilemma, between his affections and duties as a doctor. This third component to the relationship is the catalyst to Phillip's tragedy.
Phillip loves his wife; however he fails to sexually reward her. This results from an Oedipus complex:
Phillip feels inferiror to his wife due to her physical attractiveness. Therefore he feels immasculated, and her desire to return to work acts as a Freudian castration, and their sexual life ends. His view of her has been distorted from that of a wife to a mother. Just as the son rebels against the mother, so Phillip rebels against Sylvia, leaving her afraid.
Sylvia has been in a marriage she is unhappy with for twenty years; she loves Phillip but cannot understand the complexity of his feelings towards her, nor his feelings towards the Jewish people, and how this may affect her. She therefore lives now in paralytic fear of Jewish oppression in a domestic and global setting, her marriage, to her, acting as a microcosm of 1930s Europe.
Although not technically part of the marriage, Dr Hyman's participation in the relationship is important. He is certainly an object of admiration by Sylvia, and, if he is indeed latently homosexual, by Phillip. He acts as the catalyst in the tragedy without actually being the villain, but instead the hope which frees the innocent from tyranny, much like Richmond of Richard III or Fortinbras of Hamlet.
Sylvia is frightened of Phillip, and is passively fleeing him. By rendering herself incapacitated, she hopes to gain his sympathy and avoid his rage, since she associates him with those in Europe who share his anti-semitic views. Sexually she wishes to by with doctor Hyman, who she views as a virile, stable alternative to her insecure husband.
Sylvia knows she must preserve both hers and the Hyman marriages, which is what prevents her from making stronger advances on Harry. She acts as she believes a Jew should, in opression and inferiority, since this is what her husband and the Nazis preach.
Sylvia knows that she needs to recover, but cannot bring herself to see another doctor, which rationally she knows she should, so as to preserve her marriage and not fall for doctor Hyman. Her rational thought, however, is not altogether prevalent in this play, and she is most often caught between base desire and societal views
Sylvia does not actively change her situation. However by remaining sexually distant and paralysed, she brings about Phillip's death, allowing her once again to walk, since the proximity of the danger is once again, only Germany, not her own house.
Harry's virile nature make him unsuited to monogamy, meaning his love for Margaret is not enough to keep him from wanting Sylvia also. He, of the plays three leads, is the best at controlling his Id.
Harry is not controlled by the Super Ego much beyond his restraining from advancing further upon Sylvia. He has conformed to the idea of what would have been regarded as a 'typical' view of a Jew, a doctor, purely medical, not much understanding of the mind, and successful.
Most of Harry's actions are controlled by the Ego, making him the paragon of reason in the play. He is the font of knowledge from which the others drink and the self-insertion of Miller within the play. This means most of his effects are not altogether active, but more the reactions of others to his presence
The introduction of an alternative partner for Sylvia, and his conversations with Phillip, cause realisation for both spouses, leading to the tragic climax of the drama.
Despite the tragedy of the play, the initial problem of Sylvia's paralysis is in fact resolved, since she no longer feels oppressed by Phillip and the anti-semitism of his Ego.
Sylvia is no longer paralysed, hysterical or in a dysfunctional marriage. She is, however, as an american housewife in the thirties, without prospects and approaching the hardships of WWII. She has escaped one horror only to encounter another.
He does cure his primary patient, Sylvia, of her paralysis, but fails to cure his second of a heart condition. He may also have contributed to Phillip's death. He will have little reason to see Sylvia anymore and his marriage is now secure
The future of the marriage
Superficially Sylvia has been cured of her hysteria, however is left with her experiences and trauma in a situation which feels like the beginning of a Miller play, the story of a regular citizen in an unfortunate situation.
He will no longer fear coming between the Gellburgs, but there may now be scope for damaging his own marriage. If he acted in the way he did when Sylvia was married, his behaviour to her as a widow could be catastrophic to his own life.
Phillip being dead puts an end to the existance of the marriage, but what it represents, the struggle between a rejection and acceptance of Judaism, and how this affects the interactions of Jews, is an enduring issue which will be present throughout WWII and beyond.
Scene 11: what happened?
Phillip had a final conversation with Harry in which his self-hatred manifested itself fully. Harry explained that everyone is persecuted. Phillip talks with Sylvia one last time and begs her forgiveness, and then dies.
Sylvia is no longer paralysed or terrorised by her husband, and has no reason to see Hyman any more.
Sylvia is widowed and alone with few prospects. Harry is at risk of ruining his own marriage. Anti-semitism is still preeminent throughout the world and will not peak until the holocaust.
How does the example of the Gellburg marriage bear on marriages in the 1930s, marriages of Jews, and marriage in general? What does it say of long term monogamy and has the increasing acceptability of divorce made things worse, or better?
These factors finally manifest themselves physically. Phillip cannot deal with all his opposing thoughts and so his heart gives out under the stress and he dies in the final scene, although not before asking forgiveness from Sylvia.
Phillip's instinctive desire is to be sexually intimate with Sylvia, as expressed when he says 'Sylvia, you will kill me if we can't be together'. As he admires her this is his innermost desire.
Phillip knows it to be socially unacceptable to have not had relations in twenty years, and so he lies to doctor Hyman, leading to further alienation of him from Sylvia, since she feels humiliated. It also causes his anti-semitism He, of the plays three leads, is most controlled by the Super Ego
Phillip's rational thought tells him that he is incapable of pleasing Sylvia and so he withold's sex from her, restraining himself from acting upon his Id.
PROBLEM: LACK OF SEXUAL INTIMACY
Phillip and Sylvia haven't had sex since after the conception of their only child, Jerome. Whilst Phillip feels it was his punishment for being against Sylvia returning to work, Sylvia saw it as a loss of love. Phillip, however, still adores Sylvia, as a life giver, be that a mother or a deity.
THE GELLBURG MARRIAGE
Presented in scenes: 2 & 11
Discussed in scenes: 1, 3, 5, 6 & 8