Tales of the Lost Formicans by Constance S. Congdon

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Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

As its title suggests, this is a play about loss. The catalog of loss to which Congdon subjects Cathy to is staggering. Cathy has lost her marriage and her childhood home, is losing her father, and is in danger of losing her son. Besides experiencing these personal losses, Cathy also feels that certain institutions and values are missing from the culture in which she lives. The cumulative effect of all these losses is that Cathy has become alienated from the past (symbolized by her parents), the present (symbolized by her culture), and the future (symbolized by her son). Cathy is, indeed, “lost” herself, a point that Congdon drives home by having Cathy become literally and physically lost at two points in the play.

All of the characters, in fact, experience the loss of something they hold dear, and they experiment with various strategies for dealing with these losses. Judy takes revenge on her estranged husband by burning his Corvette. Evelyn tries to save Jim by escaping into the past. Eric runs away to live with his father. The neighborhood children flirt with rebellion and crime. Jerry finds solace in delusional beliefs but also by helping people in his job at the nursing home. Yet, all of these strategies fail. Judy vandalizes the wrong car. Evelyn’s trip is a disaster. Eric gets lost and ends up sleeping in a mall. The children’s rebellion is unfocused and ultimately pointless. Even Jerry’s dual strategies fail. Neither his humane acts nor his odd on-target worldview can save him from despair, and his suicide is thwarted only because he falls asleep before he can pull the trigger.

Yet the view Congdon puts forth in the play is hardly despairing, because her comic flair...

(The entire section is 586 words.)