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Last Reviewed on October 3, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 567

A great, damp, crumbling house, where people are living.

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In this description of the play’s setting, the imagery of death and decay is evoked in contrast to the notion of people living their lives. The fact that these “people” are not initially elaborated on has the effect of foregrounding the house as an image in an audience’s mind. They come to imagine the people as contained, perhaps as swallowed within the vast spaces of the house’s interior.

Will: He’s a poet.

Alma: He’s a blooming corpse.

Will’s response to his wife’s musings as to the protagonist upstairs, who “lies and sleeps” as if he is ill, is intended as an explanation. Such behavior, he seems to intimate, can be excused when it is considered that their guest is a poet, traditionally associated with melodramatic introspection; however, his wife’s cutting response shows up the limits of this stereotype. A poet he might be, yet the protagonist is at this point in the play little more than a corpse, possessed of no vibrant impulses whatsoever.

The Poet: Very close now. But I thought you might tell me how I could come closer.

The Girl: That’s something which can’t be taught.

Here the notion that the unseen girl is an unincorporated aspect of the protagonist’s mind is given weight. The idea that, after his frantic deliberations, the protagonist has become closer than ever to her indicates that he is on the verge of discovering that aspect of himself that will lead to completion. This proximity is mirrored by his physical proximity to her, being in the next room. Moreover, her insistence that learning how to become close to her “can’t be taught” suggests that the protagonist must discover for himself the means to get to her, that no external entity can advise him to this end.

How I used to hate hearing the spit crackling in the bowl, as if Will was doing it on purpose. Will did everything on purpose.

In this speech of Mrs. Lusty's, a contrast is produced between the now deceased Will, whose life had been lived with deliberation and intention, and the protagonist, whose...

(The entire section contains 567 words.)

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