Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

In this play, sexual harassment is at the epicenter, but the harassment is dubious, interpreted, skewed, absurdly subliminal if even present, as each of the two characters—John, a professor about to take tenure, and Carol, a student struggling with more than grades—defend their interpretations of the language of the student-professor dynamic.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Oleanna Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Confused and at the end of her academic rope, Carol comes to John’s office to express concerns about failing his course. A male arm around female shoulders, a bargain to come to the office to learn all she can from all he knows, and the grade will become an A, and a tension is established that carries the play. Yet all is not quite so simple as an offer to show that she can study hard and prove herself deserving of the almighty A. With each well-intended appointment, Carol arrives, but John is on the phone, or takes a phone call, or makes a phone call. In the middle of Carol’s sentences, the phone will ring. John will put her off at key intellectual moments to talk to his wife about the new house that they plan to buy (once he is tenured). John makes Carol wait while he finishes phone discussions regarding logistics of the house. John stops their study sessions to answer the questions that the caller has about the house.

So the phone—clearly the symbol of the power of language and the power to interrupt, intercept, interject, or mute the language of the less important student—ushers in the true themes of Oleanna , themes of language, restrictions of language, power, and power through language....

(The entire section contains 427 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Oleanna study guide. You'll get access to all of the Oleanna content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Critical Essays
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Critical Essays

Explore Study Guides