Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The central theme of The Hasty Heart is most succinctly expressed in the familiar phrase from the seventeenth century poet and clergyman John Donne, “No man is an island.” The play contends that human beings are vitally interconnected with one another regardless of whether they want to admit it. Human beings must care for one another, accept and tolerate differences, and work to make community possible. The individual who tries to deny friendship, interdependence, and caring merely denies that better part of humanity that yearns for human intimacy.

John Patrick communicates this theme through Lachie’s experience with the men in the hospital, but the effectiveness of the story is enhanced by Patrick’s preparation for Lachie’s initial entrance. Patrick uses well over half of the play’s first act to introduce the individual men in the ward. They represent diverse, often normally antagonistic nationalities, and Patrick gives each man a distinctive character, a distinctive dialect, and a fierce nationalistic pride. However, the men’s sniping at one another is good-natured and embodies Patrick’s social ideal of harmony within diversity. Once this ideal is embedded in the audience’s mind, even subconsciously, Patrick can introduce Lachie, who denies the ideal but then discovers his error.

Patrick also prepares his audience for his message by giving Yank, the leader of the men, a virulent hatred of Scots. Yank has the most...

(The entire section is 446 words.)