Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama

By Marc Maufort | Go to book overview

The Search for Self:
Attachment, Loss, and Recovery in The Heidi Chronicles

Daniel J. Watermeier

In the prologue structured as a lecture on women artists, the title character of Wendy Wasserstein The Heidi Chronicles describes Lilly Martin Spencer's portrait of a melancholy young woman "We Both Must Fade" ( 1869) as a "vanitas" painting: "We have a young woman posing in an exquisitely detailed dress surrounded by symbolic still life objects. The fading flower and the time piece are both reminders of mortality and time passing, while the precious jewelry spilling out is an allusion to the transcience of earthly possessions. This portrait can be perceived as a meditation on the brevity of "youth, beauty and life" (161). Deflating her seriousness and her insight, Heidi adds ironically "But what can't?" (161)

Most commentators have stressed the pro- or anti- feminist sentiments inherent in The Heidi Chronicles, but informed by certain psycholanalytical theories, it can also be productively read as an acute psychological study of its central character. In the course of delivering her lecture on "We Both Must Fade," a part of Heidi's mind flashes back to dwell on three key overlapping relationships in her life. Her backward reflection is not a systematic analysis, not sociology or history, but rather a fragmentary, dramatic meditation on attachment, loss, and recovery as a developmental process in Heidi's efforts to find and assert her authentic self. Also as in "vanitas" paintings, a certain melancholia or dysphoria pervades Heidi's self-exploration. Indeed, although structured mainly as a social comedy, images of death, depression, and disillusionment hang like a pall over the action of the entire play muting its comic potential and energy.

Befitting her role as an historian, the events Heidi memorializes are presented in chronological order, covering twenty-four years between 1965 and 1989, roughly from Heidi's seventeenth to her forty-first year. Act One, spanning the ten years between 1965 and 1977, traces Heidi's romantic attachment to and subsequent loss of Peter Patrone and especially Scoop Rosenbaum. In Act One also, Heidi is introduced to the "women's movement" or "feminism," not so much as a "love object," but as an ideal or cause.

Heidi meets Peter at "a horrible high school dance" (161) in 1965, she remembers, where "you sort of want to go home, and you sort of don't know what you want. So you hang around, a fading rose in an exquisitely detailed dress, waiting to see what might happen" (161). Peter is attracted to her

-351-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 398

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.