Themes and Meanings
Talley’s Folly is a play about the primacy of human relationships and a celebration of romantic love. As Matt says at the opening, “This is a waltz, remember, one-two-three, one-two-three.” The audience is cast as willing participants, even advocates, in Matt’s ninety-seven-minute wooing of Sally Talley. When the two embrace at the end of the play, the audience realizes that, despite the fragile nature of communication, two people can find a way to form a lasting bond. One key to their union can be found in Sally’s family past. Her grandfather built the Victorian boathouse, the “folly” of the play’s title. The folly makes no money and does nothing to enhance the status of the Talley family, but the spirit of creativity and spontaneity celebrated by her grandfather’s folly casts its spell over the characters (and the audience as well) and sets the stage for Matt’s and Sally’s love.
The play also incorporates themes about the triumph of individualism over the narrow codes of Old World cultures, and the coming to terms with the end of an era. Matt’s immigrant experience has been decidedly atypical. He experienced at firsthand the deadly consequences of European nationalism before World War I. His family’s death at the hands of the French and the Germans, who later were enemies in World War I, reflects the insanity of a world in which all nations share complicity for destroying innocent lives. But the brutal reality of his...
(The entire section is 531 words.)