Symbolism in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
The play ‘who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” by Edward Albee, as we see it, is a large metaphor for the American dream. This is clearly reflected in two of the main characters being named after the presidential couple of George and Martha Washington. However within this metaphor are many smaller symbols which are used to illustrate the relationship between the two couples of the play and therefore comment on the human condition.
To some extent, the play can be seen as an allegory as the characters reflect different ideas and situations. Nick, who is young, blonde and good-looking, symbolizes the threat of a painfully perfect future in which every newborn child is genetically engineered to flawlessness “wave of the future”. Contrastingly George represents the consequence of professional and marital failure “Good. Better. Best. Bested.” Martha’s loud and aggressive nature on the other hand represents an animal instinct “what a dump!” which could be translated into a hidden plea for attention. This relates to an inner realization that her father, whom she adores and worships, does not reciprocate her feelings. Honey, on the other hand who is the daughter of a preacher, could symbolize the tendency of humans to rebel against rules and regulations, as she nearly conceived prior to marriage. Therefore, the characters are used as symbols to represent the different stages that can occur in life and the different reactions that can occur to these changes.
The relationships between the couples of George and Martha and Nick and Honey, on one level represent the idea of an American dream and on the other hand, symbolize the affects of a broken dream. As George and Martha create a son together in the hopes of realizing their American dream, they enter a union which is meaningless without even one of them. When Martha reveals the dream to Honey, George feels cheated and in the act of ‘killing off his son’ destroys their dream...