How is the theme of control explored in Plenty?

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Susan's state of mind is somewhat unstable, something that becomes all too apparent at various points in the play. This is undoubtedly one of the traits that makes her such a fascinating character. Even though she admits to Lazar that she hasn't always been well—in the psychological sense, that is—she...

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Susan's state of mind is somewhat unstable, something that becomes all too apparent at various points in the play. This is undoubtedly one of the traits that makes her such a fascinating character. Even though she admits to Lazar that she hasn't always been well—in the psychological sense, that is—she also insists, somewhat paradoxically, that her clarity of mind is something she controls.

Susan's split personality could be, and indeed, has been, interpreted as a metaphor for the state of Britain during the post-war years. On the one hand, Britain liked to think of herself as a world power, fully in control of her destiny on the international stage and able to influence other states to reach her ends. Yet the humiliation of the Suez crisis, the most important historical event in the play, was a brutal reminder that Britain was no longer the great power she thought she was.

Hare appears to link a lack of control with a deeper understanding of the truth. It is only when Britain loses control of its own destiny in the wake of the Suez crisis that she can finally gain a truthful understanding of her reduced status in the world. By the same token, Susan's mental illness gives her a unique insight into the truth which she candidly expresses at various points in the play, even at the risk of making those around her feel distinctly uncomfortable.

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