Philadelphia, Here I Come!

by Brian Friel

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How does Aunt Lizzy in Philadelphia, Here I Come! influence Gar's decision to move to America?

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In Philadelphia, Here I Come!, Aunt Lizzy is a catalyst in Gar’s decision to move to America because of the potential material benefits and the enthusiastic affection she offers her nephew. The material aspects of his anticipated freedom include living in an urban apartment. The emotional freedom relates primarily to gaining some distance from his undemonstrative father. In addition, his outgoing aunt assures him of a warm welcome.

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Aunt Lizzy—along with her husband, Con—functions as a catalyst in helping Gar decide to pursue a different future in the United States. She makes life in Philadelphia seem idyllic and shows an infectious enthusiasm that Gar finds heartening. She emphasizes the material benefits of his new life, stressing the creature comforts that will be available to her nephew, such as a color television and an air-conditioned car. Perhaps more important is the emotional pull that she exerts on him. Gar’s father, S. B., is not unfeeling but rarely expresses positive emotions. Gar's feelings of rejection leave him wide open to accept the affection that his vivacious aunt showers on him.

Beyond the specific benefits that his aunt and uncle’s apartment contains, Gar is also attracted by the freedom of opportunity he anticipates, including working and studying. The big city will be a welcome change to the small village that he has always known. His emotional freedom will derive from getting out from under his father’s gloomy outlook. The city of Philadelphia is a fitting symbol for Gar’s liberation: it is associated with American liberty as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and has positive emotional connotations in its nickname, “The City of Brotherly Love.”

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