In Cindy Lou Johnson's one-act play Brilliant Traces, why does Henry Harry freak out when he hears from Rosannah that her shoes (that he cooked in the oven) cost $125?  Is it because he is so poor...

In Cindy Lou Johnson's one-act play Brilliant Traces, why does Henry Harry freak out when he hears from Rosannah that her shoes (that he cooked in the oven) cost $125?  Is it because he is so poor that $125 is a lot of money to him? Why does he have trouble talking to her and telling her straight up what happened when she first arrived at his house?  Why does he hesitate and correct himself all the time?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Cindy Lou Johnson's one-act play Brilliant Traces, there are definitely a few different reasons why Henry Harry is shocked to learn that the wedding slippers he accidentally baked in the oven cost $125.

One reason has to do with the fact that he's pragmatic. He is a hermit living in a tiny cabin in Alaska and naturally his mind is geared towards surviving in the harsh climate. So, one reason why he is shocked to learn how much the shoes cost is because he cannot help but connect them to their uselessness, and some individuals, like Henry Harry, may also connect uselessness with lack of value. We can particularly see Henry Harry reflect on the uselessness of the shoes in lines like, "I mean they weren't the kind of shoe you could actually have worn anywhere" and, "They looked like they were made out of paper" (p. 11-12). He even clarifies his argument that they couldn't be "worn anywhere" by saying "certainly not here," indicating that the shoes were of course useless for survival in the harsh Alaskan climate (p. 12). Hence, we can certainly see why he would also associate uselessness with valuelessness and be shocked when he learned their true cost.

We don't know much about Henry Harry's financial status, so it may be jumping to conclusions to assume he is shocked by the cost of the shoes due to being poor. However, what we do know is that he is a hermit in Alaska by choice, so his shock may also relate to his reasons for choosing to be a hermit. Another fascinating thing he says in relation to the shoes is that he put them in the oven because he "couldn't fix them" (p. 27). He describes the shoes as being perfect and "make-believe" looking but also completely ruined, "all droopy and crumpled" (p. 27). So, on the one hand, the make-believe shoes seemed to have invaded his own reality, his harsh reality of bareness out in the middle of Alaska. It seems he did not want to believe that something as pretty and useless as the shoes could possibly exist. And, on the other hand, the shoes also heightened his own feeling of helplessness due to their crumpled, ruined state. It is possible that he has become a hermit because he feels a sense of helplessness in his own life. He can't fix whatever it was he wants to fix in his own life, so he has run away from whatever it is to hide in a tiny box of a cabin. Hence, when he says of the shoes, "And I couldn't fix them. I knew I couldn't," it is more likely he is reflecting more on the state of his own life than on the state of the shoes. Therefore, just like he has run away to a tiny box of a cabin in the middle of Alaska to hide from what he wants to fix in his own life, he also put the shoes in the tiny box of an oven to hide them from the fact that he also can't fix them.

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