The primary theme of I Remember Mama, since it is seen through Katrin’s eyes, is Katrin’s process of growing up through these years. She learns the importance of family, not to take money for granted, what selfishness is, dedication to the family, and what it is to be a writer. There is pain for Katrin as she grows up, and the audience feels her pain with her. Although Katrin is not in all the scenes, they are all from her memory and it is her play, and so one can assume that they are all part of her growth and learning experience.
John van Druten’s characters are somewhat symbolic of different qualities and values, as family members must always seem to a teenager, at least in memories. Aunt Jenny and Aunt Sigrid are mostly selfish and petty, Aunt Trina is mostly sweet, Mama is always perfect, Papa is always loving and mostly the provider, Christine is brutally honest, Dagmar is mostly young, Nels is always wise, and Uncle Chris is always gruff, at least until Katrin gets to know him better.
One of the themes of this play is the nature of selfishness and unselfishness. In the opening scene, one sees how unselfish the family members are with one another as they all try to figure out a way that Nels can afford to go to high school: Marta offers to forgo her warm coat for a while longer, Nels offers to work in Dillon’s grocery after school, Papa offers to give up tobacco, and Christine offers to mind the Maxwell children on Friday nights. With all these sacrifices, the plan works. It seems a selfish thing for Mr. Hyde to give Marta a bad check for his back rent, which it is, but he does leave all of his books, which the audience knows are dear to him and which Marta...
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