Keely and Du Themes
by Jane Martin

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Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Keely and Du is designed to address the ongoing debate about the issue of abortion. Narrowing the focus, the playwright juxtaposes the positions of those who oppose abortion on religious grounds with the beliefs and needs of a pregnant rape victim. The play explores the extreme actions to which strong religious convictions may drive people, and it also focuses on a woman’s myriad reasons for needing an abortion.

Drawing inspiration from the historic, real-life violence against abortion clinics, their medical staff, and their patients, the play imagines a similarly extreme form of illegal activism. Keely is kept against her will. The meaning of her imprisonment is clear: The fate of her pregnancy is not to be decided by her, but by others who have made themselves the rulers over her body and spirit.

The religious-based opposition to abortion is given voice through the characters of Walter and Du. Walter lectures Keely with arguments familiar from real-life arguments against abortion. He presents her with graphic pamphlets of aborted fetuses that are handed out by some anti-abortion activists. He quotes real passages from the Bible that can be interpreted to prohibit abortion.

Keely’s arguments are exactly opposite to Walter’s. She demands respect for the American law, which prohibits kidnapping and gives a woman the right to an abortion. In the climactic thirteenth scene, Keely lays out her ultimate reasons for needing to terminate the unwanted pregnancy that was violently forced upon her. She is afraid she may hurt the baby, whom she may see as a symbol of Cole’s evil. She is worried she will feel utterly depressed if she gives up the baby for adoption. She also fears being stalked by Cole, who may harm her or the baby if she refuses to get back together with him.

In Du, the playwright works out the complexities of the theme to the fullest. She is a character caught in the conflict between strong religious beliefs and motivation, and a general feeling of human compassion. As a woman, Du can relate to the anguish Keely is feeling and has even considered setting her free. As a devout fundamentalist Christian with a mission, however, Du feels spiritually obligated to prevent what she believes is the killing of an unborn life. By the end of the play the two women have become friends, but they still disagree on the issue of abortion.