1. What do you think Mary Chase is saying about social relationships in this play? How to the various characters view social relationships, and is any one view privileged over the others?
2. How do you view Elwood’s drinking?
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1. In Act II of Harvey Elwood tells Dr. Chumley,
I wrestled with reality for 40 years, and I'm happy to state that I finally won out over it.
Elwood has made the choice of "being pleasant" and living in a somewhat imaginary world, which Harvey represents, in order to escape the duties and pretensions of his social class, such as talking with people in whom he has no interest, unlike his sister Veta, who is obsessed with climbing the social ladder. With Harvey Elwood can go to a working class bar and talk with people who, although they do not know him, turn to him and speak; in fact, they call him "a lovely fellow." There he makes friends:
They come over. They sit with us. They drink with us. They talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they have done. The big won· derful things they will do. Their hopes, their regrets, their loves, their hates. All very large because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.
With Harvey, Elwood has what Dr. Chumley dreams of: a place where he can go and be himself, speak of what he wished he had done, have someone comfort him and drink beer (which was considered a lower class beverage)--a place where he can be just a man, not a famous psychiatrist with a socialite wife, who loves being among the privileged class.
2. Much of Elwood's time is spent in various bars, but he seeks this places more for the company of strangers than for the libation, it seems. For, people who are lonely, discontent, and discouraged often go to bars; it is there, then, that Harvey can speak with these people who unburden themselves to him of their personal woes. By speaking with these people, Harvey finds a validation for his life as he offers them comfort and encouragement, for which they are grateful. This is why Judge Gaffney declares that Elwood Dowd has many friends in many places.
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