What character archetypes do we find in the play Closer? What archetype does Anna represent?

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jennylane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What is an archetype? An archetype is the quintessential version of a certain person or thing, meaning that it can be described as a typical example.

In Closer, each character behaves like a different archetype despite what they all seem to have in common: an obsession with love. Alice behaves much like a classic damsel in distress on the surface, but in reality she is much more than that. Dan is a classic tragic hero, who allows his selfishness and hubris to define his actions. Larry is the antagonist, or villain, depending on how you interpret his actions, but villain and antagonist are not the same thing. A villain is someone who purposefully obstructs the protagonist's journey, and an antagonist stands in the way, but is perhaps well-intentioned or unwitting. Finally, Anna behaves much like the Madonna archetype, the perfect woman that is placed on a pedestal for all to admire. She stands strong underneath the male gaze, though her motivations can bewilder her male counterparts.

A word of caution: Do not confuse the movie starring Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman with the play as the two are actually somewhat different. For example, there is a scene between Anna and Alice wherein Alice asks for her photo negatives from Anna that was omitted from the film. Furthermore, the Anna character in the play is not American.

terovolas | Student

There are many compelling character archetypes in Closer, and Anna, while seemingly a weak, villainous woman who engages in an adulterous relationship with Dan, is actually quite complex and sympathetic. On the surface, she's a career focused woman with a somewhat melancholy air to her personality, and a obvious love of the more creative side of life given her job as a photographer. She is able to find the beauty and artistic side of life, while actually remaining on the outside of it (i.e., as a photographer). She is a voyeur, literally a watcher of people, and is able to read the nuances and subtleties of her subjects, capturing moments when they are at their most vulnerable, whether it is in loss, joy, love, etc. 

When she first begins her affair with Dan, she becomes attracted to his story, the rags to riches manner in which he portrays himself to her. When they are introduced, she photographs him and is compelled by the reluctant, self-effacing way in which he accepts his book's success, and the charm he wears so easily. As Anna is basically a beautiful trophy wife to her husband Larry, who is a brutish, possessive doctor, the opposite of his wife in so many ways, it is no surprise that the creative Dan is appealing to Anna. The embark on an affair that results in Anna eventually returning to her husband and a life of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Anna is indeed a false hero, yet she also embodies the role of Shapeshifter, as the audience believes her to be a strong, career woman, beautiful and sure of herself, but who is unloved and unappreciated by her husband, and helplessly succumbs to the love of a more sensitive partner (Dan). Yet she turns out to be a woman who cannot escape the cycle of unhappiness and lack of self-esteem, thus returning to a life as a sad, unloved, "kept" wife. We are left knowing that she will go on as an emotionally neglected, abused, and discarded woman while she remains with her husband, unwilling to become the woman we initially believed her to be, or the one she portrayed herself as when she first meets Dan. Anna, as the Shapeshifter, effectively implies and encompasses Doubt. Doubt that what we, the audience, is seeing a character as she is actually is, doubt that marriage can promise love and joy, doubt that extramarital affairs can provide relief or happiness, and doubt that a career offers freedom and support. 

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Closer

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