Violet is the turbulent matriarch of the Weston household. She is addicted to a host of prescription medications and has repeatedly fallen off the wagon. In addition, her marriage to Beverly is characterized by distance and bitterness. Throughout the play, she takes out her unhappiness on her family, especially her three daughters. She picks on Ivy for being odd and shy, degrading her lack of physical appeal. She criticizes Barbara for distancing herself from the family and resists Barbara’s efforts to wrestle control of the household from her. Violet virtually ignores her third daughter, Karen; throughout the entire play, she barely speaks to her or acknowledges her existence. Yet Violet’s viciousness is rooted in a kind of brutal honesty; if what she said had no truth, it would not hurt the people around her so deeply. Violet is also surprisingly perspicacious even with her drug addiction. She repeatedly reveals that she knows information that her family thought they were hiding from her. This honesty ironically excludes her own shortcomings, as she repeatedly denies her addictions and penchant for stirring up trouble.
Barbara is the eldest Weston daughter and the one who undergoes the biggest transformation. She is the daughter most like Violet, and over the course of the play she becomes more and more like her mother. In fact, Ivy’s accusation in the final scene that there is no difference between Barbara and Violet prompts Barbara to leave the house. Like Violet, Barbara has a hard edge and a low tolerance for foolishness. This places her at odds with Bill, who loves to engage in verbal wordplay. In their final confrontation, Barbara realizes she is never going to fully understand why Bill left and she must accept that he is not coming back to her. Letts seems to hint that Barbara’s tough nature may have played a role in her marital strain. To balance out this aspect of her personality, Barbara displays moments of sensitivity and vulnerability. This is particularly true in her dealings with Ivy,...
(The entire section is 824 words.)