The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window Analysis
by Lorraine Hansberry

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The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window Analysis

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Tracing Sidney’s beliefs, political ideology, and interrelationships is one of the play’s most vivid symbolic props, which is referred to or interacted with by characters eleven times throughout the drama: the poster in the apartment window which gives the play its title. At first, Sidney is reluctant to accept the sign because he wants to remain disengaged from practical politics and focus on philosophy and the arts. When he is drawn into fervent campaigning because of his liberal ideology of righteousness and freedom from corruption or oppression, the sign represents this new intensity. When the campaign begins, surprisingly, to appear to have a chance to succeed, and when O’Hara actually wins, the sign seems to represent the triumph of innocent and uncorrupted good over wickedness. When Sidney learns about O’Hara’s corruption, however, life not being as simple as a fairy tale, the sign signifies betrayal and Sidney’s bitterness. Finally, when he accepts the fact of betrayal but decides to fight against the candidate he has helped to elect, even though he may lose his newspaper, the sign represents Sidney’s full and courageous commitment. Before Sidney has learned some humility through his experience in politics and has actualized his full humanity, he is not wise or strong enough to refrain from saying wounding things to Iris; his growth, she notes, may make possible her return to their marriage. Sidney’s transcendence of bitterness is partly shown through the play’s theme of the interrelation between art and life when, with good humor, he addresses the deceitful O’Hara in the play’s conclusion cunningly as the arriving “deus ex machina.” The events are thus appropriately cast as a Greek tragedy with the misfortunes of Gloria’s death and O’Hara’s triumphant deception, suggesting that O’Hara’s arrival will not solve any problems, that O’Hara’s winning has been unnaturally forced, and that O’Hara’s backing has been not from the crane used on the ancient Greek stage but from the corrupt political machine. Sidney’s pun indicates his comic resilience and willingness to continue striving rather than yield to nihilism or cynicism.

Symbolic blocking (placement of actors and actresses on stage) is used to express the themes of the need for tolerance, sympathy, and humanitarianism in the marvelous group dining scene of act 1, scene 2 (the play’s longest and most complex scene). After Iris has returned with paella from work at the restaurant (and has changed from her waitress’ uniform, yet another of the clothing changes symbolic of her identity problem), a dinner develops for the nonconformist circle of Iris, Sidney, Alton Scales, and David Ragin. Tension and sarcastic remarks develop between the visiting Mavis, representing conventional middle-class values and conformity, and the diners, as Mavis stands apart, ready to return to her home. Thus, Mavis’...

(The entire section is 727 words.)