Václav Havel Drama Analysis
Václav Havel’s plays appear in hindsight as crystallizations of the ambiguous time of relative liberalization in a monolithic totalitarian society. This may perhaps also be the reason for their success in the West: Czechoslovakia then, and the West both then and now, seem to share the mood of relativism, uncertainty, and ambiguity characteristic of any transitional period. Although it is a matter of speculation whether Western society is actually evolving toward full-scale socialism, Czechoslovakia at the time of Havel’s greatest successes (between 1963 and 1968) was without any doubt moving toward a less pervasive socialism, at least as it is defined there. The monolith was cracked; the totalitarian machinery was breaking down, though still operating by fits and starts. This created a peculiar atmosphere, exploited by Havel to great effect: What was formerly unquestionably true and clear was suddenly being questioned. The leaders themselves encouraged such questioning by admitting past mistakes that included staged trials and real executions. The followers, on the other hand, could no longer be sure that the present party line would not change shortly and were thus inhibited from acting aggressively on the party’s behalf. There were indeed further changes and new revelations of misdeeds. Thus, the political situation acted as a destabilizing force, motivating people to question not only it but also everything else. This was an intense time of debate, of...
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