Patrick White Drama Analysis
Patrick White’s plays address the same thematic concerns as his novels: the role of the artist, the conflict between the visionary and the materialist, and the moral desolation and decay prevailing in modern life. Their language and structure intensify and heighten experience by combining the poetic with the mundane, the experimental with the traditional, the events of ordinary life with the metaphysical quest for truth. In general, the plays owe much to the European tradition of expressionism, which depends on the use of antinaturalistic stage devices, compression of language, symbolic picture sequences achieved through short unrealized scenes, lofty themes of spiritual regeneration or renewal, and a declamatory tone.
Although White’s plays will not gain the kind of recognition his fiction has achieved, they should not be discounted or ignored. They stand as accomplished works in their own right, especially in their author’s original handling of techniques that made expressionism so vital a force in twentieth century theater. An understanding of the dramas will lead to a richer appreciation of the novels, for both literary forms show how the artist can meld opposites: symbolism that employs the trivial to clarify the universal; characters who emerge as both real human beings and metaphysical abstractions; settings that rely on the tangible, which are microcosmic, but suggest the elusive, the universal.
The Ham Funeral
(The entire section is 1724 words.)
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