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What are themes that could be analyzed in T.S. Eliot's play The Family Reunion.

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beso1403 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 25, 2011 at 2:25 AM via web

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What are themes that could be analyzed in T.S. Eliot's play The Family Reunion.

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 28, 2011 at 10:27 PM (Answer #1)

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In T.S. Eliot's play The Family Reunion we find a rich, isolated, and enmeshed country family led by its matriarch, Amy; a woman too stuck in the past to ever move forward, or let her family move forward.

Among the themes we find in the play, the most obvious is the existence of family secrets and how they tend to repeat themselves from generation to generation. Amy has held a secret from her son, Harry: His father had attempted to kill her while Harry was still in her womb. Conversely, Harry lives estranged from his wife which he allegedly pushes overboard from a boat, killing her in the act. The fact that the family secret is kept seems to prompt for fate to repeat itself in Harry's own life. As a result, Harry lives in a consistent battle of guilt and the fear of retaliation.

The second theme that comes along with family secrets is, basically, the effects of providence or the effect of fate in the lives of the unredeemed. Unless one cycle ends the other cannot begin. In this family, however, nothing ever comes to a closure, which results in that the family is in a continuous vicious cycle of repetitive existence. An example of this mentality comes from Amy, herself. She feels that perpetuating her life will maintain her family alive. The reality is, however, that she actually wants to perpetuate the past in the false believe that it will bring her changing family back to the way she remembers it:

I keep Wishwood alive
To keep the family alive, to keep them together
To keep me alive, ....

One last theme to consider is change and the importance of development. The Wishwood estate awaits the return of Harry, who is perhaps the only member of the family who "wandered off" the immediate circle. They fear Harry, somewhat, because he is the one "who got away". Similarly, Mary insists on getting away from Wishwood, but it seems that it is somehow a much harder thing than it looks. Therefore, the closure of the past in order to allow the future to occur is the permeating topic in the play.

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