In Brilliant Traces by Cindy Lou Johnson, who is Henry Harry and what kind of emotion does he start off the first scene with when he encounters Rosannah for the first time? When she comes storming into his home, how might one portray him as he is listening to Rosannah go on and on about her experience? Thank you.
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The Alaskan landscape is a complete contradiction. It is beautiful and vast but it is desolate and fierce. To continue the contradiction, Henry is the last person anyone would want to spend time alone with. He has given up on relationships and spirited himself off to live alone and uninterrupted in a cabin in Alaska. The cabin is acceptable with no real comforts and defines his current state of mind. He is looking for a simple, uncomplicated existence where responsibility is almost an unnecessary word and making friends is not on his list of priorities. He is in denial.
Rosannah, in her attempts to avoid her impending marriage, has basically left her groom at the altar and tried to get as far away as possible, to an area as remote as possible. However, there was no apparent planning and her car has broken down, leaving her to find her way through the snow (in her wedding dress!). Henry is the unassuming, isolated person he intends to be, ironically with the same idea as Rosannah in finding a place so remote that others will not, or certainly should not, find him.
Rosannah's entrance and the start of the play shatter the silence and create an atmosphere of sheer panic where Henry is just an observer. Her description of Henry as "nothing more than a pile of blankets" speaks to his demeanor as he reluctantly gets up from the bed in response to her desperate, impassioned pleas. The fact that he remains "frozen solid" fits well with the scene outside (figuratively) which, courtesy of Rosannah, the audience knows is "about two hundred degrees below." The cold that he feels, although equally numbing is, however, very different from the physical cold that Rosannah feels right now. He is stunned and therefore has not absorbed the situation, remaining guarded and distant.
Henry starts off the first scene with almost no emotion, impenetrable. He is not inclined to say anything so the fact that Rosannah keeps talking is not an issue for him as he has nothing to say anyway. It is as if Henry is outside the conversation, not because Rosannah will not let him in but because he chooses to be. He watches her but does not hear her. Only when she faints does he expose himself and his own feelings. Now he can let his guard down because he is sure that no one will see his own despair.
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