In the drama Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, are the play's Cold War themes pertinent to current international tensions?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would say that there are specific elements of the drama that can connect to current international tensions.  Naturally, the referential point to specific aspects of the Cold War might seem outdated.  However, the struggle to preserve the American Dream in the face of overwhelming illusions and concerns about whether the "American Dream" is real are elements that can be applied today.  In the modern setting, the conditions that challenge the "American Dream" are the elements of globalization and a world where the faceless enemy of terrorism exists.  This existential threat is applicable to the modern setting.  When George says, "I will not give up Berlin," it is a statement of how he will hold on to his vision of restoration and his own construction of the American Dream.  This could relate to the modern setting if he were to say, "I will not give up Baghdad," in a reference to the Iraq war.  The issue of what constitutes the American Dream or if it is real is a way that the drama's construction of Cold War reality can be seen in the modern setting.

The question of survival of America and its dream are realities that can be seen in the modern setting.  George speaks to a historical condition of then and one of now when he says, "We drink a great deal in this country, and I suspect we'll be drinking a great deal more, too ... if we survive."  The questions of how America will survive in a globalized world, where the "rise of the rest" is perceived as a threat along with the fears of fundamentalist terroristic activity, would be the forces that can be seen as challenges to American survival.  It is in this light that I think that the play has connections to current international tensions that occupy a place in American consciousness. The drama is about what constitutes our dreams and what our dreams are like.  It probes whether illusion constructs our dreams and, in particular, the American Dream.  It is in this development that the drama has connections and meaning to current international tensions.

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