Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 662
Sex The most obvious motif in The Blue Room is sex, in all its many guises. In the play, sex is shared between a prostitute and a john, a student and an older, married woman, a politician and his wife, an artist and a model, an actress and a writer,...
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The most obvious motif in The Blue Room is sex, in all its many guises. In the play, sex is shared between a prostitute and a john, a student and an older, married woman, a politician and his wife, an artist and a model, an actress and a writer, and so on and on. In every instance, however, the build-up prior to the sexual act is more energetic and exciting than the act itself which, accordingly, is never shown on the stage. The characters all long for satisfying experiences, and some seem to be seeking meaningful relationships, but their constant changing of partners in a sexual roundelay thwarts their chances of ever finding meaning and substance with other human beings.
At their best, the characters in The Blue Room can seem innocent and well-intentioned. Even The Girl, a neophyte prostitute, tells The Cab Driver ‘‘The kiss is the best bit,’’ not the act of sex itself; and early on she doesn’t even demand payment for her services. Fred, The Cab Driver, for all his callousness in the first scene with The Girl, seems genuinely enamored with the Au Pair at a dance later. Even though he is incapable of discussing his feelings in any meaningful way, he makes an attempt at tenderness and at least stays for a little while after sex.
No matter how rude, incorrigible, or formidable a character in this play’s world might seem at first, he or she is likely to meet his or her match just around the corner in the next scene, suggesting that our attitudes toward sex make conquerors, and fools, of us all. Sex, the play seems to suggest, is a merry-go-round of our own making. Human nature is drawn toward lechery, whether we like it or not. It is this realization that causes the frustrated Aristocrat to wail, ‘‘How do we change? How do we change who we are?’’ when he wakes up in a dingy room above a sex shop after a drunken night with a prostitute. Dawn comes, he and The Girl bid farewell, but the play suggests that by evening the dance will continue on.
One of the devices people rely on in a lifetime of sexual escapades and failed relationships, the play suggests, is masks that hide, and change, their true identities. With his Au Pair, The Student is confident, imperious even. He is the master of the house, and she the servant. Up in his room with the older Married Woman, however, he is insecure, impotent, and romantically naive. Which face is the real Student? For her part, The Married Woman is nervous about possible discovery but as confident with her young paramour as he was the Au Pair. It is she who controls the situation. Back at home, though, she is cowed by her husband, The Politician, who she really loves but no longer inspires.
Like the sex that passes from partner to partner in scene after scene, the masks the characters wear are constantly changing. The Cab Driver is a crude, anonymous john willing to have sex on a riverbank one day, and a tender, if unpolished, wooer at ballroom dance the next. The Playwright is by turn preening, boastful, and condescending with The Model, and clumsy, reserved, and altogether mastered by The Actress. It is a dilemma summed up by The Aristocrat, in what may be the play’s most selfdescriptive line. ‘‘Do you think any of us is ever just one person?’’ he asks The Actress after they have had sex in her dressing room. ‘‘Don’t you think we all change, all the time? With one person we’re one person, and with another we’re another.’’ True to form, this wealthy, sophisticated gentleman later finds himself rumpled in a chair in a prostitute’s bedroom, missing memories of the previous night’s debauchery. No one in the play, or perhaps in life, remains what they seem for long.