Themes and Meanings
The Hot l Baltimore explores the transitoriness of social institutions and human relationships and comments upon the ways that people try to maintain a sense of identity in a constantly changing world. The hotel itself represents this theme of transience. Built in the nineteenth century, this once-elegant hotel is now the home of prostitutes and the elderly. The e in its sign has burned out and been left unrepaired, a fact that represents the decay and dissolution of the neighborhood. Now the owners have decided to cast out its residents and demolish it.
The play is comic rather than tragic. The characters try to find something to hold on to; losing one dream, they try to grab another or to embrace chaos. The Girl, for example, abandons what little stability her own name provides and talks of having traveled around the country, abandoning place entirely. Millie, on the other hand, very much wants rootedness. She puts her faith in a kind of transcendence that enables her to see ghosts. Jackie tries to achieve a utopian dream of returning to nature, only to have it shattered. She talks of helping others and being helped but uses a close relationship only to steal and betray; ultimately, she abandons even her brother in a flight from responsibility. Bill, who clearly feels much affection for the Girl, is unable to express himself to her and thus comes to the end of the play with his emotional needs unsatisfied. To the derision of all, Suzy...
(The entire section is 543 words.)