Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sexual Perversity in Chicago examines why it is so difficult to find and express heterosexual love. Deborah and Dan are attracted to each other and move in together, hoping to create a long-term, loving relationship. Their efforts to communicate, however, are thwarted by the very language that they use. As critic Robert Storey has pointed out, “It is not so much Bernie as it is his language that forbids all real intimacy with women.” Men and women are at a barely concealed, all-out war, treating each other with a casual hostility. Vulgarities are a part of the courting ritual and are used as substitutes for the expression of real thought or emotion.

Mamet has stated that he wrote this play to show “how what we say influences what we think.” When the characters in Sexual Perversity in Chicago refer to each other as bodily parts, bodily functions, or as unhuman beings, they are thinking of each other and relating to each other as if these words were factual descriptions. For Mamet, vulgarity is not casual—it represents a dehumanization, a destruction of the communication process in the same way as do more obvious words such as “nigger,” “kike,” or “spick.” The play’s final scene clearly demonstrates this process and its results.

Bernard and Dan are relaxing on a Lake Michigan beach, becoming angry at women’s behavior and simultaneously admiring women’s bodies. Dan has the play’s last words, which...

(The entire section is 564 words.)