In the movie Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, how does Martha feel about the world?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Mike Nichols' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Martha calls herself the "Earth Mother"; she toys with men who she calls "flops."  None of them, George or Nick, live up to her ideal man, Daddy.

Martha has a serious Elektra Complex (the female version of the Oedipus Complex).  As such, she loves her Daddy way too much, and her husband in the history department, who once had a chance to follow in her Daddy's footsteps, inevitably flops and turns into a bog.  So too it is with the up-and-coming Nick, future successor of the biology department and college.  She too envisions him being the next Daddy, giving her the son (future head of the school) that she never had with George.

So, Martha is an incestuous-Darwinian-capitalist-American-dreamer at heart.  She wants her men to rise up the corporate or academic ladder and provide her a role as Earth Mother and hostess to all.  She'll serve drinks and make jokes and sing silly songs for all her professor-children.

But, as George points out, Daddy never loved Martha because she was not a son to take over the college.  In his patriarchal world, Daddy resents his daughter.  So, Martha is subconsciously angry with most men, especially those who are smart (she was never well educated).  So, she sets up this impossible standard (Daddy) for them to live up to, but she is really setting them up (and her relationships with them) for failure.

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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