Critical Context

Metaphysics of a Two-Headed Calf is one of several plays in which Witkiewicz makes use of imagery and impressions from his expedition to New Guinea and Australia with social anthropologist Bronisaw Malinowski. In these plays, Witkiewicz explores the cultural polarities between East and West and what he considers to be the plague of civilization thrust upon the primitive paradise by Europeans. Unsated by their conquests, the Europeans succumb to tropical madness. In Pragmatyci (pb. 1920, pr. 1921; The Pragmatists, 1971) Witkiewicz presents the character Plasfodor, who has kidnapped Princess Tsui, seduced her, and, still unsated, drunk her blood “through a straw made of dried Wu grass.”

The mummified princess returns from the dead to take Plasfodor and the other Europeans to the edge of existence. In Mister Price: Czyli, Bzik tropikalny (pr. 1926; Mr. Price: Or, Tropical Madness, 1972) Witkiewicz constructs a dream about British colonial life peopled by demented characters who may well have fabricated their madness as they eagerly revert to the status of beasts of prey, succumbing to the laws of the jungle. In the second act of Tumor Mózgowicz (pr., pb. 1921; Tumor Brainiowicz, 1980), Witkiewicz presents the representative reactions of the members of a European expedition to a tropical island: Sir Alfred Green plants the British flag for the glory of the empire; Iza wishes to make love to...

(The entire section is 451 words.)