What is a deeper meaning question for chapters 16-20 in The Shakespeare Stealer?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one can look at Widge in Chapters 16 through 20 and find some interesting elements to generate questions regarding characterization.  In Chapter 17, Widge has to "pretend" to die while on stage.  The actors don't let him in on the fake nature of the swords, and Widge has to "act" in a dramatic manner.  From this, a rather deep question can be generated on how Widge has had to act throughout his life:

How is Widge's life as an orphan similar to an actor?  Find three examples throughout the text where life as an orphan and acting have shared similar traits.

This is a rather profound question because it helps to capture much of Widge's life as both orphan and actor.  For Widge, having to be an actor on stage requires quick thinking and critical decisions made on the assessment of situations.  There is an almost improvisational quality to Widge's acting.  This same element is seen in Widge's life, where he has been forced to play roles that have lacked direction, script, and critical elements.  In both realms of life and art, Widge has been forced to act, to perform, and to use what he knows in order to survive.  The harsh glare of the spotlight and the glare of the life as an orphan have demanded that Widge act decisively in order to survive both.  This parallel can be delved into as a question to better understand Widge's characterization.

Later on in chapter 17, Julian and Widge talk about their lives.  This helps to reveal another "deep" question regarding both characters:

How are the lives that Julian and Widge lead the lives of "actors?"

This idea of "acting" becomes a rather powerful element in the predicaments of Julian and Widge.  Both of them are actors in how the live and in concealment. Widge has to conceal much in order to survive and learns that acting and adaptation go together.  Julian/ Julia must also "act" in order to pursue her passion.  This is a critical element of convergence in both characters.  Both must act in accordance to external reality in order to survive.  The acting that Julian/ Julia does is to pursue dreams.  For both, the acting they must perform is dictated by social reality: Indentured orphanhood for Widge, gender exclusion for Julia.  The probing of how both must "act" to survive can reveal profound examination of social reality.