Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 476

Bus Stop examines love and its expression at various levels. Bo epitomizes the concept of young, romantic love, idealistic in his pursuit of the first woman with whom he makes love. He is the noble savage from the rural environment of the ranch. His enthusiasm as a young broncobuster spills over into his relationship with Cherie; he considers it his duty to rope and tie her and take her back to Montana as his wife. Cherie, on the other hand, is an experienced girl, whose reaction to the news that she is Bo’s first conquest is, “Well, I sure ain’t never had that honor before.” Her experiences in life have been much different from those of Bo; her environment dictated expediency. Her background made it necessary for her to seek employment and to come to grips with life in a milieu where human nature is baser and less kind.

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Grace and Carl are content with physical love. She was married previously but did not find the situation enjoyable. While it is never stated concretely that Carl is married, the audience assumes that he is because of his reluctance to discuss it. Their encounter during the snowstorm brings fruition to a physical attraction that has been developing for some time. Both are content with this level of love. He enjoys a dalliance on the road, and she appreciates a strong man to fulfill her physical needs. Neither wants commitment; in this way, their relationship is perfect.

Dr. Lyman represents thwarted or immature love. The nymphs he pursues offer him some sort of expression of the ideal that has eluded him during his frustrated existence. He is steeped in self-hatred, as demonstrated when he says, “I never had the generosity to love, to give my own most private self to another, for I was weak. I thought the gift would somehow lessen me.” His illusion is that young girls afford him an opportunity to begin again—somehow to return to the origin of his troubles and miraculously correct the flaw that set him astray. Society and the law, however, frown on such activities.

Elma epitomizes ideal love. For her, love must be commensurate with what she perceives from her literature books. Her choice to read the part of Juliet from the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet demonstrates her desire to be carried away to some Spenserian bower of bliss. She is highly appealing in her trust of Dr. Lyman, and her naivete prevails when she tells him, “You’re not a foolish old man. I like you more than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Virgil, Bo’s friend, feels most comfortable around male friends, and his plight in life is firmly stated when he is left out in the cold at the end of the play, saying, “Well... that’s what happens to some people.”

Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 542

Change and Transformation
Initially, Bo is a loud and aggressive man; yet eventually with the help of Virgil and Cherie, he begins to mature into a more sensitive, tender one. On account of his inexperience with women and his insecurity with himself, he does not know how to relate to people. His love for Cherie transforms him: only by losing her does he find the courage to confront his limitations and move forward with his life. Only then does Cherie accept his love.

Friendship
Bo and Virgil’s friendship is a strong and longlasting one. Older by twenty years, Virgil has taken care of Bo since the death of his parents and has become a father figure for the young man. During the course of the play, Virgil tries to restrain Bo, hoping to keep him out of trouble. He provides valuable advice on how Bo should act, especially with Cherie. With Virgil, Bo is able to finally express his loneliness. When Cherie accepts Bo’s proposal, Virgil bows out of Bo’s life so that he can build a life with Cherie.

Loneliness
Loneliness is an important theme in Bus Stop and propels most of the action in the play. In particular, Bo cannot bear the thought of returning to his lonely ranch. For this reason he mistakes his sexual relationship with Cherie for love and later mistakes love for ownership. Yet Bo cannot really love Cherie until he begins to acknowledge the depth of his loneliness and need. When he can really relate to her, with tenderness and caring, the young couple find common ground: their loneliness.

Grace is also motivated by loneliness. She tells Elma that she hates to return to her apartment above the diner alone. Her brief sexual encounters with Carl appear to offer her temporary respite from that emptiness, but it is only for a few hours and then she is alone again. Carl’s visits are limited to twentyminute stops, and while that is enough time for a brief sexual tryst, it is ultimately dissatisfying.

Moral Corruption
More than Grace and Carl’s casual sexual relationship or Cherie’s checkered history, the most egregious moral corruption in the play takes place between Lyman and Elma. His history of seducing young girls into a sexual relationship is known as pedophilia; in fact, he is fleeing the police for seducing underage girls. When he first enters the diner, Lyman is attracted to Elma and devotes much of the play to arranging a secret meeting. He con-

Pride
Bo’s identity is largely defined by pride. In fact, his initial appearance underscores this theme as he loudly describes his accomplishments to the people in the diner. His relationship with Cherie is negatively affected by this trait too. When she rejects him, he cannot believe that Cherie might not love him; the very idea is inconceivable. Therefore, he tries to force her to love and accept him.

Moreover, after Bo loses his fight with the sheriff, he is humiliated and unable to apologize to Cherie for his behavior. When Bo is finally able to put aside his pride and tell her that he loves her for who she truly is, he is able to form a bond with Cherie.

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