Study Guide


by Arthur Kopit

Wings Themes

Themes and Meanings (Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Wings is essentially a study of the disruption of a normal human life as the consequence of a stroke. Beyond this obvious theme, however, Arthur Kopit’s play explores more universal concerns including the power of language, the isolation of the individual, and the meaning of “self.”

The entire structure of the play is designed to allow the audience to experience to some degree the disorientation that Mrs. Stilson feels and thus identify with the pain and anguish of the disabled. The use of darkness as an isolating factor, the inability to distinguish external stimuli, the failure of memory, and the inadequacy of speech to express one’s ideas all contribute to Mrs. Stilson’s isolation and her inability to control her own life. It is Mrs. Stilson’s struggle against these unnameable and thus unknowable forces that forms the central action of the play.

This struggle is not an easy one. From a fear of total loss of self, even to the point of physical fragmentation (“Where’s my arm? I don’t have an arm! What’s an arm?”), through periods of feeling like a victim and a prisoner in an alien world, Mrs. Stilson grasps at moments that allow her to verify her own existence. At the beginning of act 1 she can say “I am still intact,” and by the end of that act she realizes that she has changed, not the external world (“I can’t make it do it like it used to”).

She experiences “dream” or...

(The entire section is 481 words.)