Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Lydie Breeze is the first of four plays about this group of characters, although it concerns, chronologically, the last events. The others are Gardenia (pr., pb. 1982), Women and Water (pr. 1985, pb. 1990), and “Bullfinch’s Mythology.” Thus, Lydie Breeze is part of an epic exploration of failed idealism, which John Guare sees as the heart of American culture. Syphilis becomes the central metaphor for the corruption that eats from within at the American Dream. For Guare, ethics and ideals are destroyed not so much by the forces outside as by the rot inside people, which is the inescapable human tendency toward greed, ambition, lust, jealousy, and violent anger.

Each character in the play suggests a particular perspective on the theme of failed idealism; Joshua’s bitterness, drunkenness, and self-pity are the manifestations of his sense of loss, not only of his wife and friends but also, more deeply, of his own innocence and optimism. He “ached for a utopia” but killed his best friend out of sexual jealousy and selfish greed, pettily symbolized by the bottle of Moxie he rips from Jeremiah’s mouth. Gussie places her faith in the power and materialism represented by Hearst and Amos, only to see her dreams of the good life, and Amos’s political ambitions, destroyed by the ghost of Aipotu. Jeremiah has achieved fame and wealth abroad, but just as he plays a monster on the stage, he is the monster of Lydie...

(The entire section is 489 words.)