(Robert) Brian Clark Jack Kroll - Essay

Jack Kroll

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I hope "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" becomes controversial, as well as the smash hit it was in London and that it promises to be on Broadway. There's something scary about the automatic applause that breaks out at the climactic moment when a judge gives its paralyzed hero, Ken Harrison, the right to choose his death. There's something grotesque about the thought that the ultimate democratic right is the right to choose self-extinction. Is this indeed the logic implicit in the entire history of Western liberal thought? If it is, then it calls for all our powers of irony and tragic vision to come to terms with it. This doesn't happen in Brian Clark's serious but disquieting—and, I believe, superficial—play….

The trouble with the play is that what ought to be a great debate on the ultimate issues of life, death and freedom never happens. The only matter argued in the bedside tribunal is whether Harrison is too depressed to make a rational decision, and of course the judge is right—Harrison is entirely rational. But his rationality should be only the beginning of the matter, and here it's the end. Harrison's lively, witty mind has done absolutely no deep thinking on the subject. It's simply informed him that he can no longer sculpt or make love and no overbearing doctor is going to deprive him of his inalienable right to die. That's what's disquieting about the audience's applause—Harrison is like a parody of the liberal hero; he's...

(The entire section is 573 words.)