Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
It may seem surprising that a comedy of manners set in Philadelphia Main Line society is essentially a plea for tolerance. The two most interesting characters in the play, Mike and Tracy, as well as Tracy’s pompous fiancé, George, are all so committed to their own ideas that they cannot accept others as they are, much less enjoy the differences between people. Early in the play, the prejudices of these characters become clear. Both George and Mike are of humble backgrounds; neither understands what the Lords are like. George has developed his own image of the extremely proper aristocrat who is to be his wife and expects the unconventional, mercurial Tracy to fit the pattern. Mike considers people such as the Lords to be brainless, heartless parasites, and he dislikes them even more because he has been pulled from news stories of social significance to cover their extravagant wedding festivities. On her part, Tracy shares with her class the dislike and distrust of reporters, whom she sees as voyeurs without sensitivity or manners, and in addition, she is furious about the fact that her father’s indiscretion has forced her to admit the press to her wedding.
Although the play focuses on Tracy’s need to change, if she is ever to have a happy marriage, she can only develop through seeing the intolerance shown by George and Mike, who though her social inferiors, behave no worse than Tracy herself. The stage directions make it clear that Philip Barry...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
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