Form and Content
Angels on Toast satirizes the ego, vulgarity, superficial “go-getterism,” and alcoholic self-indulgence of a type of American businessman common in the 1930’s. At the center of Dawn Powell’s comedy of bad manners are the attitudes of representative males Lou Donovan and Jay Oliver toward their women. Wives are to stay home and keep up a dignified front while their husbands carouse with showgirls or sexually liberated career women. When they marry the type of women with whom they like to indulge themselves, the marriages fail, as they do when a proper wife such as Mary Donovan attempts to be more flamboyant. Powell also comically contrasts the staid Midwest with the comparative decadence of Manhattan and the energy of urban America with the sleepy countryside.
Angels on Toast opens with Lou and Jay on a train from Chicago to New York. Ebie Vane joins Jay, her lover, at the Pittsburgh stop. When they arrive in Manhattan, however, Jay is shocked to discover himself greeted by his wife, Flo, and his mother-in-law, who have decided to accompany him during his stay in New York. Lou covers for his friend by pretending that Ebie is a business associate, but everyone, including another passenger, Mary’s uncle, the staid Judge Harrod, assumes that Ebie is Lou’s mistress.
Lou has previously considered Ebie a snotty artistic type, but circumstances having thrown them together, he discovers her warmer nature, leading to their spending...
(The entire section is 603 words.)