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Discuss the power of language (diction) and its effectiveness in portraying theme or...

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Mr. Lee | College Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted January 4, 2013 at 7:12 PM via web

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Discuss the power of language (diction) and its effectiveness in portraying theme or character in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:20 AM (Answer #1)

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The power of language in this play is clearly used to reveal the curious relationship that George and Martha have, and the way that it is built on a mutual desire to harm and wound. From the very beginning of this play, it is clear that these two characters have a relationship that is based on the contradictory emotions of love and hate. Simultaneously their words reveal a deep loathing of each other that is also curiously mixed in with love. Consider, for example, the following exchange:

Martha: Well…you're going bald.
George: So are you. (Pause…they both laugh) Hello, honey.
Martha: Hello. C'mon over here and give your mommy a big sloppy kiss.

The pointed reference to baldness by Martha in her husband is rather direct, but George's assertion that Martha is losing her hair as well is shocking in the extreme, as baldness in women is rather a taboo subject in Western society. However, note the response of laughter following this exchange and the romantic talk afterwards, as Martha asks for a kiss. Elsewhere the strength of Martha's hatred for her husband is expressed through her reference to him as "a blank, a cipher" and her assertion that if he actually "existed" she would divorce him. The raw strength of the words used indicate very strongly that this is a relationship where there are no holds barred in terms of wounding each other and expression.

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