The Conflict in Terrance McNally´s Lips Together, Teeth Apart

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All relationships go through both good and bad times. Some last through the ages, while others quickly fall into nothing. In Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” the heart of this haunting play is a dramatically incisive portrait of two married couples—the Truman’s and the Haddocks. Uncomfortable with themselves and each other, they are forced to spend a Fourth of July weekend at the Fire Island house that the brother of one of the women left his sister when he died of AIDS. Though the house is beautiful, it is as empty as their lives and marriages have become, a symbol of their failed hopes, their rage, their fears, and of the capricious nature of death. The theme of love and death in relationships is quickly developed, as …show more content…

When Sally and John have their brief affair, which both spouses are aware of, the first problem of unfaithfulness becomes on display. As the day goes on, the tensions generated by this situation grow more acute, culminating in a physical confrontation between Sam and John.
The second symbol is the swimming pool introduced at the beginning a dominant visual element of the plays setting. A pool represents a wide verity of objectives, socialization, pleasure, amusement. However, McNally chooses to showcase a different view of the pool. For instance the characters are reluctant to enter it. In fact they shun the idea of it, enforced by the comments of the characters. "I'm sorry, but I'm very sensitive about pools," Sam says. "Our mother was very big on polio. . . . Grow up like that and you view a pool or a public toilet seat as a natural enemy." The pool is thus associated with disease and filth- -polio and public toilet seats. Why? In monologs from the characters it becomes clear there is an unspoken fear that the pool is contaminated. The house in which the couples are staying once belonged to Sally’s brother who recently passed from AIDS. Everyone is scared that by swimming in the pool they will also contract the deadly disease. Well that is everyone except John who has esophagus cancer and sees that as the last of his worries. In fact, he purposefully puts his head under the water, fills his mouth with the “contaminated” water, and spits

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