Last Summer in Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers

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Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The most vivid character in Last Summer at Bluefish Cove is Lil, who dramatizes the play’s various themes of love, friendship, the joys and difficulties of being lesbian, and courage in the face of death. Jane Chambers wrote the play in 1976 shortly after a friend’s death from cancer. In 1982 she herself was diagnosed with cancer, and she died of a brain tumor in 1983. For this reason, some critics call the play autobiographical. In many ways, Bluefish Cove is also a play about family: Chambers wrote in the play’s Introduction that it is an exploration of “coping with a death sentence in the prime of one’s life and the strength of the homosexual family.”

Lil’s fishing in the opening scene is symbolic: She is alone, yet enjoying the activity and still in pursuit of the joys of life. The love she and Eva discover allows them many moments of self-discovery, and they come to grips with the mistakes each has made in the past for the sake of love. Lil is witty, cynical, brave, spirited, and not used to commitment, while Eva is passionate and determined to stay with her to the end, at all costs. Lil says that Kitty’s books will be on library shelves for one hundred years and that Annie’s sculptures will last indefinitely, adding, “That’s a kind of immortality. [Pause.] Alley cats just come and go.” Lil knows that she herself will last only as long as her friends will remember her. She feels the agony of knowing that she has finally met the one great love of her life but has only weeks left to live.

Chambers shows that friendship is the strongest bond between people and can create a sense of family among society’s outsiders. The eight women in the play may gossip and argue but they also provide each other with comfort, love, and understanding. Lil, telling Eva what it is like to be a lesbian, says,It was Annie who showed me the gay bars and restaurants, the gay resort areas—we gays are kind of like the hobbits—no matter how repressive earthlings get, we continue to thrive in Middle Earth. We’re survivors. We straddle both worlds and try to keep our balance.

This reference to J. R. R....

(The entire section is 565 words.)