Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A celebration of the human spirit lies at the center of Travelling North. When Frances announces her decision to travel farther north, the audience cannot help but believe that, in spite of the bleakness of the lives just depicted on the stage, the durability of the human spirit has once more been reaffirmed. The play focuses on life’s pettiness: family squabbles, stinginess, hypochondria, jealousy and rivalry, resentment, and personal ambition. The characters, caught as they are in the web of such emotions and situations, believe that the solutions lie in tangibles such as careers, politics, and social acceptance. Frances’s announcement that she will continue to travel north, however, constitutes an epiphany for her. Now she intends to set aside the unsatisfactory concrete solutions to life’s puzzle in favor of seeking another kind of answer.

Travelling North develops this thematic intent in two major ways. First, the double setting, which blends together on the stage, places the grayness of urban life against the exotic and beckoning tropics where the sun glows in magnificent colors, the more so the farther north one travels. Second, the arts—music, theater, literature—give the characters their greatest satisfaction, far more than that which they derive from human relationships and personal or public success. Classical music, for one thing, dominates the play. In spite of Frances’s dreary years of rearing two daughters and struggling to manage financially, she has always found refuge and meaning in music and theater. Frank dies just as he gets ready to listen to a concerto by Antonio Vivaldi.

Although it records the mundane aspects of life, Travelling North seeks the extraordinary and tries to find meaning behind the ordinary. Once Frances accepts the quest, she can travel north, thus starting a symbolic journey toward spiritual fulfillment.