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Essay Themes Depicted in the Play "Summer of the Seventeenth Doll"

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"Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll" is a timeless play as it can be transposed to be as relevant today as when it was written. The play is definitely a tragi-comedy but more than the ideas raised in the statement the play is about change and the inability for some to deal with it, the battle between dream and reality and loyalty and mateship. It also serves as a social document of Australia in the 1950s. Lawler uses symbols, the actions of the characters, the structure of the play and mise-en-scene to effectively portray his feelings to the audience.

The main theme expressed in the play is change and the characters' inability to cope with this. Like many working-class people from this time the characters in the play are fairly uneducated and because of this, they do not have an understanding of the growing old process, they cling onto what they know best, which is youth and this brings about their downfall. Olive is the classic dreamer. She is thirty-nine but still continues to live as though she's a teenager. She has extremely strong ideals, which she refuses to let go of. She wants excitement; she wants "five months of heaven every year." She doesn't want the monotony and responsibility of married life. Roo and Barney, who once were fit young men, come down from the lay-off this year, dragging their ever-increasing age with them. Roo is not as fit and healthy as he used to be - he has a bad back - his pride also holds him back from realizing that he is getting older and that life is changing for him. Time is catching up with Barney as well and he is no longer the epitome of male prowess that he believed he once was. Underneath the smiling, joking façade he really is a fairly pathetic man who doesn't truly understand what is happ...


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...is what the characters find they cannot cope with - change. The real tragedy of the play is watching the characters destroying themselves through their own inarticulateness and lack of understanding. Ray Lawler very effectively shows the downfall of the characters through his stage direction. The play works because it touches on the audience's sense of compassion for the characters - we feel pity for them growing old. "The characters are real; neighbours, people in pubs." The language of the characters and their relatively carefree attitude to life means that the audience is able to relate to the people on the stage and ultimately become more engaged and involved in the story line. "The Doll" is best summed up by Ray Lawler himself; "A play about growing up, about people who can't grow up, and about people who can, about people who cannot face the reality of life."


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