Search for Self
In act 2, Edward seeks psychiatric help because, as he explains, "I have ceased to believe in my own personality " Sir Henry answers this with the observation that it is a "very common malady. Very prevalent indeed." The entire play traces the course of how three people—Edward, Lavinia, and Celia—find that the personalities that they had believed in fall short of the world's requirements. It is significant that the first time Edward opens up to anyone and talks about the reality of his marriage is when he is left alone with a character whom he does not know, named "Unidentified Guest" by the playwright. To the stranger, Edward admits his uncertainty about a life without Lavinia, and when the stranger offers to bring her back, he accepts, despite the fact that he had previously felt she was forcing him into a life of falsehood. When she does come back, Edward realizes almost immediately that it is a mistake. He is not comfortable with himself, either with or without her, and so he believes that the best place for him would be isolated in a sanatorium where he would not have to put on any outward appearance at all.
Lavinia's search for self, as Sir Henry explains it, started when she realized that her lover, Peter, was not only in love with another woman, but that the other woman was Celia, the woman with whom Edward was having an affair. Having lost two men to the same woman raises the question of her own desirability. She...
(The entire section is 1148 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Cocktail Party Themes. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!