A Walk in the Woods Themes
by Lee Blessing

Start Your Free Trial

Download A Walk in the Woods Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

A political play of ideas, A Walk in the Woods is so full of profound political commentary and timely social relevance that one might expect such mundane elements as plot and character to be mere scaffolding on which to hang the more important message of the play. However, the primary theme of the play is not the danger of nuclear weapons or the horror of war, but the importance of friendship, a friendship depicted through the mundane elements of plot and character.

The negotiations in which Botvinnik and Honeyman are involved come to no conclusion during the course of the play. A presidential election takes place between acts, but there is no real change in the international political situation. The conflict around which the play revolves is, instead, the personal one between two men, one seeking friendship, the other seeking to maintain a more formal relationship. However, as Botvinnik proclaims, “Formality is simply anger with its hair combed.”

Honeyman initially objects to wasting time by taking a walk in the woods. “Making friends is a fine thing, but not on someone else’s time, so to speak.” Honeyman believes that talking must have a point. Yet, talking is the point. As Honeyman himself eventually comes to understand, “We have to start with the bare fact that there are two of us here.” In talking to one another, both sides find recognition: “We look across the table, and we see ourselves.” “The talks will go on for hundreds of years,” laments Botvinnik at the conclusion of the play. Then adds, “if we are lucky.”

The play’s political message is articulated often through the course of the play, generally through the interplay of Botvinnik’s cynicism and Honeyman’s idealism. “Man,” says Botvinnik, “is an animal who must fulfill every potential. Even the potential to kill himself.” Honeyman counters by arguing that “man has the potential to become a whole new animal. One that trusts instead of fears. One that agrees when it makes sense to agree. That finds the way to live, because life has become for him—has finally become—a sacred thing.” Honeyman defends his considerably more idealistic view by asserting that, in the age of nuclear weapons, “Idealism is no longer a choice for mankind. It’s a necessity.”

Botvinnik points out that the...

(The entire section is 586 words.)