Ronald Harwood

Start Free Trial

David Mayer

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 269

What mars … Ronald Harwood's A Family is its tired structure and laboured profundities couched in the sort of dialogue where each time a character says anything at all, It Means Something Significant. The structure of A Family is cast from the late 19th-century mould, wrought by Ibsen and his contemporaries and seized by such 20th-century authors as O'Neill and Miller, where the arms of the past reach in to snatch at the present, a stalled Newtonian machine years later kicked suddenly into life so that every past action is reciprocated by its long-delayed reaction.

And as the play's main spring is a war-time memory, repressed and unacknowledged for 33 years, of a father's … heroic and disastrously misguided attempt to rescue his son from wartime Italy, where the son …, even then a lad big enough to know his own mind, had, on fleeing a German POW camp, joined a partisan guerrilla band and fallen deeply in love with a local girl. The ensuing complications, enforced liberation and the girl's suicide, all awkwardly recalled in lumpish flashbacks, may be physical, but the reactions are deeply psychological…. Happiness, suggests Harwood, is a resolved Oedipal conflict, and gives us … [the father] as a crusty and meddlesome Laius with a deaf-aid and parachutist's kit, eventually struck down by his son, not at a Delphic crossroad, but in the claustrophobic bosom of a Jewish family knit together by skeins of fear, hatred and recrimination. In A Family all is revealed, all is explained. The machine never falters. (pp. 29-30)

David Mayer, in a review of "A Family," in Plays and Players, Vol. 25, No. 10, July, 1978, pp. 29-30.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Rosalind Wade


Anthony Curtis