Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

by Edward Albee

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How would you describe the power dynamic between Nick and Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and does it change throughout the play?

The power dynamic between Nick and Honey in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? can be described as a type of parental relationship, in which Nick is an adult and Honey is a child. The revelation that Honey may be deliberately avoiding becoming pregnant, and her later declaration that she does want a child, may signal a shift in their power dynamic.

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We see the parent-child relationship between Nick and Honey unfold throughout the play. Honey is timid from the first time we see her, warning, “I told you we shouldn’t have come.” She speaks significantly less than the others, and when she does speak, her words are often framed with giggles.

She is not well, particularly when drinking alcohol or in stressful situations. When Nick asks her how she feels, she replies with “the echo of a whine, a long-practiced tone.”

As the night progresses, we see Honey in her own world, often oblivious or slow to catch on to the subtext of the conversions happening around her. At one point she dances on her own. This behavior is similar to a child at a party who entertains herself while the adults converse.

Also, we learn that Honey is afraid of childbearing, which further infantilizes her. She is humiliated when George reveals that Nick has told of her hysterical pregnancy, and she leaves to go upstairs. When she returns, she is “half asleep, still sick, weak, still staggering a little ... vaguely, in something of a dream world.” This scene echoes the image of a sleepy, disoriented child coming downstairs looking for adults. A little while later, she ends up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, a symbolic pose of regression.

One could argue that a shift in power positions between Honey and Nick occurs in the play when George confronts Honey about not having children. He implies that she is taking deliberate actions to prevent getting pregnant. This secret would certainly put Honey in a more powerful position over Nick by having unilateral control over their future. Additionally, toward the end of the evening, she declares that she wants a child. This could represent an act of growth toward adulthood.

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