Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The overriding concern of Susan and God is a concern that Rachel Crothers examined throughout her playwriting career: How can the newly independent woman deal with conflicting interests and make a place for herself in the new society? Crothers examines the complexity of women’s opportunities, choices, and limitations with both seriousness and humor and considers the problems that come with choice.

Much critical attention has been given to Crothers’s protagonist, Susan Trexel, who is shown as shallow and selfish, more interested in excitement and her own aggrandizement than in the real needs of her family and friends. Some see Susan’s return to her family as an antifeminist statement; however, this view fails to take into account the complexity of the women characters in the play, beginning with Susan.

Susan is clearly lacking in real commitment in either the public or private sphere. Lady Wiggam’s “movement” lacks seriousness, and Susan’s “God” is a superficial one. In contrast to this, Susan and Barrie accept each other at the end in a clear-eyed discussion, recognizing each other’s faults and making a commitment to a working relationship. This will not be a traditional marriage but a partnership based on a love that is realistic. Susan has clearly grown in the course of the play.

The importance of Susan as mother and mentor for Blossom is painfully clear, and Susan’s superficial advice to her daughter—to get rid of her glasses and braces and hold in her stomach—is woefully inadequate. However, in the final act, Susan confesses to Irene that she has developed a real emotional bond with Blossom, and the audience can hope at the end that Susan’s relationship with her daughter will also grow stronger.

Susan’s friends are also foils, whose circumstances and values contrast with those of Susan. Irene, who depends on her relationship with a man for fulfillment, loses Michael to another woman and will have to rethink her choices. Leonora, who has married Stubbie for financial security, rejects this troubled marriage and returns to her theater career, which she loves and in which she finds fulfillment. Finally, Charlotte, who is portrayed as healthy, vital, and “outdoorsy,” is clearly strong enough to do well with or without Barrie.