The Square Root of Wonderful

by Carson McCullers

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Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 268

All of the play’s action and dialogue occur within the confines of the living room, but the characters refer to numerous conversations and events that take place offstage. Why do you think McCullers chose to limit the play’s setting to the living room? Do you think this is effective, or would the play be stronger if some events that are only referred to were actually dramatized?

Many critics have complained about McCullers’s handling of humor in the play. List some examples of humor (or attempts at humor) in the play and discuss their effectiveness and impact.

Much of the play is autobiographical. McCullers notes in the introduction to the 1958 published version that she gave Mollie many of the features her own mother possessed and that Phillip re- flects many of the personality traits of her husband, Reeves. Critics have also suggested that McCullers’s own experiences and struggles are reflected in the play’s characters. Learn more about the author’s life and then make a case that the play is or is not autobiographical.

In the 1950s, many issues that appear in the play, such as sex, alcoholism, suicide, and mental illness, were viewed differently than they are today. Pick one of these topics and research how people viewed it in the 1950s. Compare this with how the issue is viewed with today. Do you think today’s attitudes are an improvement or not?

Write an epilogue for the play telling what you think the future will bring for Mollie, John, and Paris. Will they be happy? What challenges might each of them face?

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