J. M. Barrie

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What are the themes and main symbols in The Will by J. M Barrie?

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James Matthew Barrie's play The Will focuses on the passage of time, greed, and death. In the beginning, Mr. and Mrs. Ross come to the law office of the Devizes as a youthful, loving, and humble couple. They hardly have two pennies to rub together, and they know that the future is uncertain (though they are optimistic) and want to be prepared. They are generous; Emily wants to give Philip's cousins and a hospital a large sum of money. They can't necessarily afford this, but they do it out of love and gratitude. Devizes Sr. remarks on their happiness and genuine affection for one another. Fast forward twenty years: the Rosses have become wealthy but cool toward one another, and Emily has acquired a taste for money. Once a generous young woman, she now wants everything to go to her and wishes to decrease the amount that goes to the cousins and the hospital. After twenty more years, Emily has died. Philip's feelings toward her are cold, and he is ashamed of his children for behaving below their social status. Devizes Sr.'s failing memory reminds Philip of how he and Emily were when they first married, and Philip wishes to help a young couple before their relationship becomes damaged the way his did.

Devizes Sr.'s clerk, Surtees, references an illness that his doctor has found: "a black spot, not so big as a pin’s head, but waiting to spread and destroy me in the fulness of time." Initially, this sounds like a disease, possibly a cancerous tumor, that nothing can fix once it has spread. This black spot could also be symbolic of the disease that spread between Philip and Emily, choking their youthful affection and rupturing their relationship. Only when it's too late does Philip discover the black spot that came into his life. There saying "time heals all wounds" is very common, but in this story, the Rosses failed to notice that the wound existed.

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