In the short play, "Tape" by Jose Rivera, how does the plot reflect the major elements of the play's structure?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the short drama, "Tape," by Jose Rivera, the plot reflects the play's major elements. The major elements of the play are: the sequence of events; the setting, characters and conflict; foreshadowing; flashback; and, the play's climax and resolution. All of these elements drive the short drama's plot.

This one-act play is set in a place the audience might assume to be purgatory. There are two characters: the Person (who has died) and the Attendant (who will see to the "care" of the Person). The conflict is the Person's confrontation of all of his past mistakes, specifically, every lie he has ever told in his entire life—which he does not want to do, and the Attendant's insistence that he must.

The author's use of foreshadowing and flashback heighten the anxiety of the audience's response to the Person's predicament, galvanizing the plot forward. The Attendant tells the Person that there are ten-thousand boxes of reel-to-reel tapes that he must listen to. Whereas a cassette tape can be sixty to one-hundred and twenty minutes in length, reel-to-reel tapes are hours long. The minute detail presented by the Attendant that the machine playing the tapes has no "fast forward" button, foreshadows that this process will take a very, very long time, and nothing the Person does or says (including heartfelt apologies) will change it. The Attendant's description of what awaits the Person would appear to represent the drama's climax, and it underlines the horror of the plot line:

Listening, word by word, to every lie you ever told while you were alive…Every ugly lie to every person, every single time, every betrayal, every lying thought, every time you lied to yourself, deep in your mind, we were listening, we were recording, and it's all in these tapes, ten thousand boxes of them, in your own words, one lie after the next, over and over until we're finished.

Flashback also intensifies the audience's reaction to the Person's situation—it appears at the end of the play in the form of the "first" lie:

Where have you been? Do you know I've been looking all over?…I went to Manny's! I went to the pharmacy! The school! I even called the police! Look at me…I'm shaking! Look at me—Look at me and tell me where you were! Tell me right now! (Silence. As the Person waits for the lying response…)

This dialogue must be from the Person's mother, as she mentions having gone to "the school." We can assume, then, that the Person's lying began very early, and the "punishment" that lies before him has only just begun. There seems to be no resolution, simply the nervousness of the Person as he listens to the first taped lie. In fact, because this accounting of endless lies will take a very long time, a resolution is impossible. Webster-Merriam online dictionary defines resolution as...

...the point in a literary work at which the chief dramatic complication is worked out.

It would appear that the only time the "complication" will be worked out is when the Person is finished listening to all of his lies.


Additional Sources:é_Rivera_(playwright)