In "Tape" by Jose Rivera what is the underlying issue developed throughout the play?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Jose Rivera's play, "Tape," I believe that the underlying issue is that "what goes around, comes around," but in a moralistic sense. The play seems to be saying that in the author's mind, everything comes with reckoning. If you cheat someone, someone will cheat you. If you lie…you will be found out, and be punished. This may reflect an Old Testament view of the "wages of sin," whereas the New Testament offers forgiveness.

In "Tape," the Person (the main character) is meeting the Attendant. The audience quickly learns that the Person is dead, and that is why he is with the Attendant, though we are not sure at first what the implications of this are.

Not certain if the Person is in purgatory or hell, the mood of the play is altered substantially when the Attendant states:

We don't want to cause you undue suffering.

"Undue" means that "we" don't want to cause the Person "undeserved" suffering, but that there will be suffering…we simply don't know yet what kind.

The Person finally realizes what his punishment will be. There are ten thousand boxes of reel-to-reel tapes of the Person lying—waiting outside the door. These kinds of tapes are very large, meaning they are also very long, and without specifics, we know that the Person will have to listen to each one, and the machine he is using does not have a "fast forward" button. It will go on until he is done. This, then, is the man's punishment.

The part of the play that seems to point to an Old Testament perception is that the Person apologizes profusely, almost in tears, and the Attendant's only response is "too late." When the man says, "I don't want to listen," the Attendant [sadly] responds, "Neither did we. Neither did we." However, one does not get the sense that The Attendant really is that sad, but simply that this is the way of things for a man like the Person.

The underlying issue seems to speak to the "wages of sin," but based on the author's perception, there is no forgiveness, only judgment and consequences.


Additional Source:é_Rivera_(playwright)