"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Articulates the Crises of Contemporary Western Civilization

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Edward Albee's (1928) play Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1961-62) exhibits concern with the crises of faith of contemporary western civilization. This thematic concern is rooted in two sources. First it establishes a link with the dramatists of the thirties such as Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953), Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) and Arthur Miller (1915-2005). These dramatists had in their plays critiqued America as it moved from "confidence to doubt." In a land of success they wrote obsessively of the unsuccessful. Their characters such as Blanch Du Bois in Street Car Named Desire(1947), Joe Keller in All My Sons (1947), Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman (1949) and Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) all lead "posthumous…show more content…
"The social and spiritual reasons for such a sense of loss of meaning are manifold and complex: the waning of religious faith that had started with the Enlightenment and led Nietzsche to speak of the 'death of God' by the eighteen-eighties; the breakdown of the liberal faith in inevitable social progress in the wake of the First World War; the disillusionment with the hopes of radical social revolution as predicted by Marx after Stalin had turned the Soviet Union into a totalitarian tyranny; the relapse into barbarism, mass murder, and genocide in the course of Hitler's brief rule over Europe during the Second World War; and, in the aftermath of that war, the spread of spiritual emptiness in the outwardly prosperous and affluent societies of Western Europe and the United States. For many the world of the mid twentieth century lost its meaning and simply ceased to make sense." In the first act "Fun and Games", George articulates this sense of disillusionment in his recognition that "people learn nothing from history" thereby demonstrating a potential to repeat the past horrors. Also there is a deep suspicion regarding the intentions of science which seeks to formulate a "super civilization" by "rearranging chromosomes" so as to make everyone like "everyone else." These two forces namely a critique of American Dream and the mid twentieth century existential angst can be found exerting pressures on the

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