Edward Albee's Ground-Breaking The Feminine Mystique Analysis

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Edward Albee’s one of the probable intentions in writing this play is an attack on the existing ideals and roles that were assigned to each gender during the 50’s and 60’s.The characters in the play are distinguished from each other on the basis of the kind of personality and behavior they reflect during the action of the play. All the four major characters in the play namely George, Martha, Nick and Honey, show a feeble contrast to some extent for the standard or acceptable gender norms at that point of time in the society. While the play was written a year before the publication of feminist Betty Friedan’s ground-breaking The Feminine Mystique, the play explores the same issues Friedan railed against. Friedan writes about the “feminine mystique,”…show more content…
It was a real slap-in-the-face to her intelligence and identity when her father had her marriage annulled because it was not proper for a woman to be sexual or to make her own decisions. George himself comments on how Martha’s sexual expression is improper with lines like “your skirt up over your head.” (Albee17) This very well shows her as a female of independent thinking who believes in living her life according to her own terms and conditions. She is just opposite of the ideal notion of a perfect lady by being plump and fat instead of having a lean and thin feminine physique like Honey. On the other hand the twenty-six year old “thin-hipped…simp” Honey is the incredibly stifling, unfulfilled result of what happens if a woman conforms to what 1962 society told her to be. In order to quickly show that Honey, the pre feminist-era ideal woman, is a farce, Albee makes her uninteresting, remarkably unintelligent and absolutely loathsome. She characteristically says boring, solicitous, giggly things like “Oh, isn’t this lovely” (Albee21) and “Well I certainly had fun…it was a wonderful party” (21), even “put some powder on my nose.” (28). She is inoffensive, always agreeable, and, as Friedan points out, devoted to her husband, the ideal of femininity: “Their only dream was to be perfect wives and mothers; their highest ambition to have five children and a beautiful house, their only fight to get and keep their husbands.”…show more content…
Martha tells George he is “a blank, you’re a cipher…a zero” (17) because of his lack of manly attributes, such as a commanding nature, athletic ability, good looks and ability to control his emotions. She berates him for sulking early on: “are you sulking? Is that what you’re doing?” (12) Men should not sulk; they must be stoic. Years prior, George refused to box his taunting father-in-law and was made to feel like less of a man because of it (56). Enter Nick, the macho-man, everything George is not. Instantly, he is commanding: “I told you we shouldn’t have come.” (21); he is also stoic– he dryly responds “I am aware of that” (22) when Honey tells him he’s being “joshed.” Most of all, Nick is far more attractive and athletic than old, pudgy George, described often as “about thirty, blond, and…good-looking” (9) and once as “quarterback.” (151) He was even a middleweight boxing champion (51). Martha has physical competition issues, too, with the young, skinny Honey: “I’m six years younger than you are,” (15) George says to Martha, implying that she is old and useless because she’s no longer young and pretty. Martha then foreshadows George’s inability to measure up against Nick: “Well…you’re going bald.” (15) Thus, George is ugly, unmanly and no longer virile. He feels threatened: “I said I was impressed, Martha. I’m beside myself with jealousy.”

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