What are the themes in the play Harvey?

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The play is set in the 1940s, in a small town by the sea. The action takes place in a living room. Elwood P. Dowd and his sister Veta are sitting together on the sofa. They are waiting for their nephew who has been sent for to come over and spend some time with Elwood P. Dowd, who is described as 'mad'. Dr Chumley arrives with the nephew Harvey (who is never referred to by name). The doctor says that he and Elwood have met before (during an earlier visit, when Elwood had been coaxed into going to the local police station), and that he can testify to Elwood's sanity. He says it'

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Elwood P. Dowd is a man whose primary relationship is with a fantastic creature, a pooka, who appears to him as a giant rabbit named Harvey. To Elwood, Harvey is real; to others, he is evidence that Elwood is mentally ill.

The playwright (Mary Chase ) encourages...

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the reader or viewer to empathize with Elwood; thus, the primary theme of the play is tolerance for difference. Elwood does not engage in any dangerous or destructive activities, but his sister's shame takes precedent over familial bonds. Elwood enjoys hanging out with Harvey, who—despite his many differences—understands him; he is happy in this contemplative, harmonious world.

Chase alludes to a theme regarding the harmfulness of ambition; in this analysis, she implicitly criticizes the competitiveness of the American Dream.

Additionally, based on Elwood's visits with Dr. Chumley—which are not helpful in changing his ideas or behavior—Chase also suggests that there are limitations to what medicine can understand about human consciousness.

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Harvey, written by Mary Chase, is the story of Elwood P. Dowd and his friend Harvey. Harvey is a giant rabbit that only Elwood can see. Elwood’s sister and niece are embarrassed by him and attempt to have him committed to an insane asylum. But they realize that Elwood is happy as he is and decide to leave him be.

There are several themes explored in this play. One is the idea of reality vs. imagination and which is better to live with. Elwood has an imaginary friend and it makes him happy. His family wants him to live in the real world, but if he is happy, what is the advantage of living in the real world?

This runs into the idea of living up to social expectations. The reason Elwood’s sister and niece want him to change is because they are embarrassed by him. They want to have a good place in society and feel he is hurting that by talking about Harvey in public. Would they feel the same way if they were not concerned with their standing in society?

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What is the theme behind the character of Harvey?

Strangely, I find this difficult to answer.  This might be a bit obscure, but I think that part of the answer lies in Elwood's assertion that he had to choose between "being smart and being nice."  Elwood chose the latter.  The relationship that Harvey and Elwood share is one where this choice is accentuated.  We never see Harvey and Elwood sharing anything but a psychologically healthy relationship.  In a world where there is an almost insane drive to make Elwood "sane," it seems that the only psychologically fulfilling relationship present is the one that he shares with the rabbit.  This might be the theme of the play.  When Veta must choose to keep her brother's happiness with Harvey, it seems to be a statement that the relationships that make human beings better people justify themselves.

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