Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A Voyage Round My Father is John Mortimer’s memoir of growing up in a middle-class English household dominated by a dictatorial blind father. Autobiographical though the work is, its playwright-raisonneur mainly is objective about the people and experiences he recalls. Unlike the narrators of such similar (American) plays as Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie (pr. 1944) and Robert Anderson’s I Never Sang for My Father (pr., pb. 1968), the son of A Voyage Round My Father is not striving for psychological purgation.

Whereas Williams’s and Anderson’s narrators are haunted by the past, Mortimer’s merely retells it. The title of the play, however, calls attention to the peculiarly distant and unemotional relationship between son and father. The boy never could get as close to the older man as he wanted, and not only because of the father’s blindness. Rather, because the father treated life as a game, he created an impenetrable emotional barrier between himself and everyone else. It is easy to understand how the onset of blindness in his middle years and his refusal to acknowledge the affliction could have led to his desire for social isolation and a retreat to the sanctuary of his garden. Even his long-suffering wife, on whom he is totally dependent, seems to be nothing more to him than his servant. She selflessly caters to all of his whims and demands but gets no sign of warmth, affection, or...

(The entire section is 543 words.)