Oleanna Questions and Answers
by David Mamet

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How are the themes sexism and sexual harassment expressed in the play Oleanna? Do you think the students questions were justified?

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Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The play, in addition to addressing sexism and gender politics, is about student-teacher power relationships and the inherent hypocrisy of the university tenure system.

John's conference with Carol in act 1 crystallizes this problem. John is distracted by the details of buying a house, which is one of several future events he anticipates as a result of gaining tenure. He does talk to Carol in a condescending and paternalistic way; his efforts to make her "understand" are filtered through his own experience as someone labeled "stupid" (which he clumsily tries to explain to Carol), and simultaneously balancing the life transition he is trying to manage over the phone while trying to talk to Carol is not helping matters.

Carol, for her part, is simply trying to dupe John; she's not really interested in his class or "understanding" his book but in documenting his sexist behavior. Even though Carol claims over and over not to understand, the play makes clear that in this situation John is the...

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