Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Aubrey, braggart and freeloader, is an antihero difficult to like and impossible to admire. However, his opportunistic bluffing earns Joe a great deal of money, and Amy’s adoration of him allows the family to forgive him—at least in part—for his flaws. Of the family members, cheerful Joe is the most likable but also appears onstage the least. Amy is gullible; Mrs. Fisher is an intrusive, eavesdropping busybody; Clara seems joyless; and her husband Frank is willing to pay for Aubrey’s mistakes and irresponsible behavior because he regrets having married Clara when he loves another woman.

George Kelly likes to create characters who are blind to their own flaws. As a writer of comedies, he ridicules vain, self-centered incompetents, who never realize what fools they make of themselves. His satire addresses not social problems but rather individual follies. He considers responsible behavior a great virtue, and therefore his comedy focuses on characters who behave selfishly and without care for the future.

Kelly was a writer of the theater of ideas, not a great character developer: His characters usually behave the same at the end of the play as they appear at the beginning. Aubrey has not learned, in the end, that he should stop lying and boasting: It is evident that the Fishers will have to accept him as he is.

Kelly’s comedy, especially in his early plays (The Show-Off is his second produced drama), focuses on the subjects...

(The entire section is 603 words.)