Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Come Back, Little Sheba is centrally concerned with human loneliness and personal isolation. These themes are related to a concern with the loss of youth and attractiveness, an issue often in the forefront of Inge’s mind. It surfaces as a controlling device in some of his other plays, particularly Picnic (pr., pb. 1953).
The dream sequences probably reveal more about the play’s underlying concerns than anything else in Come Back, Little Sheba, except perhaps for Doc’s fondling of Marie’s scarf. Lola has a recurrent dream about the loss of Sheba, representative of her lost youth and beauty. In the first dream, Lola takes Sheba downtown on a leash and is proud because everyone turns and looks admiringly at the dog.
In the last dream, Lola and Marie watch a javelin contest. Turk has explained to Lola earlier in the play that a javelin is a long lance that is held erect. He tells her how he lets it fly, and it goes through the air until it lands and pierces the earth, where it quivers. In her dream, Lola is transported to her high school, where she was a beauty queen. She and Marie are in the stadium watching the Olympics with thousands of other spectators. Lola’s father, in charge of the games, disqualifies Turk. Doc replaces Turk, takes his position, and throws the javelin so high that it never lands. Rain begins to fall, and Lola notices that Sheba is not with her. She searches the crowd for her, then sees...
(The entire section is 324 words.)
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At the time that Come Back, Little Sheba was first produced on Broadway, few people spoke openly about addiction. Alcohol abuse was, and remains, a common domestic problem, but families rarely spoke to outsiders about alcoholic family members. Membership in Alcoholics Anonymous was not a topic for the kind of casual conversation that Lola engages in with her milkman and postman.
Inge's play demonstrates how destructive alcohol can be. When Doc chases Lola with a hatchet in the second act, the audience is meant to feel horrified The entire seventeen minute sequence of Doc's alcoholic breakdown is disturbing to watch, and when he is taken away to the psychiatric hospital, it is Inge's intention that the viewer feel both relief and disgust. Yet he also sought to illustrate to his audience the circumstances that lead to such addictions. While clearly showing the destructiveness of dependency, Inge seeks to foster understanding for why depressed people turn to alcohol for solace or escape.
Change and Transformation
The lives that Doc and Lola planned more than twenty years earlier have not come to fruition. Lola longs for her past happiness, for the time when she was young and beautiful and Doc was jealous of the other young men who also courted her. She wants to capture again the happiness of their early courtship and marriage and the anticipation of a baby. Instead, Lola has become fat and sloppy. Her...
(The entire section is 1142 words.)