Themes and Meanings
Albee, in the play’s introduction, acknowledges the drama’s autobiographical elements:I knew my subject—my adoptive mother, whom I knew from my infancy . . . until her death over sixty years later. . . . I harbor no ill-will toward her; it is true I did not like her much, could not abide her prejudices, her loathings, her paranoias, but I did admire her pride, her sense of self.
Although he says that in her last twenty years almost no one could abide his mother, in the play, he captures the qualities in her that he grudgingly admires, although he does not evade those qualities that he found repugnant.
Although it concentrates on death and dying, Three Tall Women is thematically about the inevitable changes that take place in humans as they age. Albee’s three women are concerned with what they know, how they know it, and when they knew it. Albee gives each woman a lengthy monologue in which she considers when she was happiest in life. The responses to this question pose another clear question: Do people learn from their experiences?
It is clear that the once hopeful woman C has turned into a cynical, hardened, embittered crone. C represents what A once was, but in her denial that she will ever become like A, one realizes that she is already headed irretrievably in that direction. The intermediate stage, represented by B, hovers between the two extremes, but there is no escaping the inevitability of the sort of change that has transformed C into the old woman whom Albee...
(The entire section is 621 words.)