Study Guide

Pandora's Box

by Frank Wedekind

Pandora's Box Themes

Themes and Meanings (Survey of Dramatic Literature)

On the surface, Pandora’s Box and its predecessor, Earth Spirit, appear to be little more than graphic representations of the havoc wreaked on modern, civilized society when the most basic human drives are allowed to exist unchecked. In this case, it is Lulu’s sexuality, a dark, primeval force of almost mythic proportions, that—to use the positivistic terminology of Frank Wedekind’s day—“causes” the destruction of all people with whom she comes into contact. Indeed, most characters in the Lulu tragedies are incapable of reconciling their middle-class morality (and especially their concept of respectability) with the sexually uninhibited, bohemian lifestyle portrayed by Lulu. As soon as they succumb to Lulu’s charms, they seemingly are fated to die. Dr. Goll suffers a heart attack, Schwarz commits suicide, Dr. Schön is shot, Alwa is struck down, and Geschwitz is stabbed. Even Lulu herself, who cannot help being a beautiful temptress, must die at the end as a victim of her own sexuality.

Beyond the mere observation that unbridled drives, sexual and otherwise, may have dire consequences for the individual, it is possible to identify a much deeper meaning within Wedekind’s plays, a meaning that may have important implications for modern society. This deeper meaning has been unlocked in part through Freudian theory, the proponents of which have asserted that Pandora’s Box and Earth Spirit represent the...

(The entire section is 566 words.)