Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 499

Seascape concerns the necessity for individuals to examine their lives in order to live life fully. All four characters in Edward Albee’s play are at crossroads; they need to make choices, but choices based on a consciousness of mortality. Albee explores animal nature and human nature in a juxtaposition of these apparent opposites. This opposition forms the dramatic tension of the play. Charlie is content to remain passive, while Nancy urges activity and involvement; Leslie is wary of the unknown, while Sarah is receptive to new ideas; the emotional development of the humans is more advanced than that of the sea creatures. Act 1 presents numerous examples of the differences between Charlie and Nancy: their proposed retirement plans, their past life together. Even their encounter with Leslie and Sarah points up their different responses to new experiences: Charlie is afraid and defensive; Nancy is awestruck, open, and welcoming. The necessity of exploring and questioning relationships and values becomes the focal point of Seascape.

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Both couples have experienced what Albert Camus calls “absurdity,” a feeling of alienation. Sarah and Leslie no longer seem to belong in their underwater home. Nancy and Charlie are experiencing the changes retirement brings. All have been moved to question their existence. In act 2, after preliminary comparisons of their lives, the discussion of alienation begins to draw the couples together. The second act, then, becomes a process of education and evolution in the understanding and awareness of the parallels between the couples’ different but related worlds. As a result, they grow toward an interconnection born of sharing and love. Both couples make the decision to take the next step in the cycle of life.

The play highlights the evolutionary process in human life, the process of moving from one level of consciousness to another. Progress, only possible when people become dissatisfied with their present lives, is necessary for growth to self-knowledge. Nancy, who accepts flux as a part of life, is the instrumental force in moving the other three to an awareness and acceptance of this concept.

At the heart of this process is communication, as it is in many of Albee’s plays: Communicating honestly opens people up, raising their consciousness. In act 1, authentic communication in which there is honest sharing does not exist between Nancy and Charlie. Nancy essentially tries to revive Charlie’s lifeless spirit; however, having “turned off” life, relationships, and experience, Charlie turns a deaf ear to her attempt at communication. Seascape asserts that there are discoveries still to be made about life and living, but those wonders are experienced only through active participation, through climbing “the glaciers and the crags,” as Nancy suggests. The world may be precarious and absurd, but one can achieve transcendence through self-awareness. The death of one level of consciousness leads to the birth of a higher level.

Seascape confronts the reader or theatergoer with his or her own passivity and urges an optimistic existentialist view: Loving and sharing produce awareness and responsibility, belonging and community.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 773

Communication and Understanding
At the thematic center of Seascape are issues related to communication and understanding. Though all of the characters speak English, when each of the four tries to communicate with the others, only varied success is achieved. The theme of communication takes on several forms in the play.

First, there is the communication between each member of a couple with their respective mate. Nancy tries to engage her husband, Charlie, in a mutually beneficial discussion about her needs and...

(The entire section contains 1272 words.)

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