Sunrise at Campobello reveals a side of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that few witnessed or saw publicly portrayed—his affliction with polio. Major themes of the play demonstrate his courage in dealing with this crippling disease and how the ordeal shaped his character as a future president.
Playwright Dore Schary was a longtime supporter and admirer of Roosevelt, having served as chair of the Hollywood for Roosevelt Committee. While reading a book on the president, Schary decided to write the play, hoping that Roosevelt’s courage would convey an inspirational message for contemporary audiences.
Roosevelt’s courage is vividly characterized through his flamboyant optimism, revealed soon after being stricken by polio. Unable to walk, he needs to be transported by stretcher. He transforms a potentially embarrassing and humiliating situation into a triumphant departure. He jokingly banters with Louis Howe and remarks that he feels like the caliph of Baghdad. Then he dons his favorite fedora, pokes his familiar cigarette holder jauntily in his mouth, and gets his Scottie dog to sit in his lap. This pose was so remarkable that it wound up on the cover of the popular Life magazine.
During the period of Roosevelt’s convalescence, Louis Howe, his friend and adviser, provided a great deal of humor, which played a significant role in Roosevelt’s recuperation. Whether it is reading aloud William Ernest Henley’s poem...
(The entire section is 582 words.)