Couples trapped in unhappy marriages, dysfunctional marital unions are recurring themes in A level Literature texts for H3 paper, “The Mind and Self in Literature”. This is a recurring theme in Woman in Mind, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Ariel. Many names and labels have been given to the writers and of such works and to their productions. Epithets include ‘the theatre of confrontation”, the “theatre of the absurd”, “an angry playwright”.
In Woolf, I feel that the lack of conjugal bliss is the result of humanity’s estrangement from the truth with man and women engaging in illusions to cope with the harsh realities of life – disappointments, rejections, humiliations and failures, alienation, etc. The marriage of the characters become provided a microcosm for the Albee to explore what is wrong with humanity. In both Woolf and Woman in Mind, the marital relationship becomes the place to amplify the need for man and woman to confront their existential conditions in the universe, a universe that have become a physical and spiritual wasteland. In Woman in Mind, the protagonist’s mental breakdown although destroys her, but saves saves her at the same time from her unhappiness and in a perverse way enables her to conduct a painful revenge on her husband. Ayckbourn balances the comically ludicrous with the tragic and the breakdown in family relationships though farce. In Ariel, the female speaker dubbed a ‘bitch goddess’ by some scholars is none other than the distraught, oftentimes angry, sometimes bitter, and insistent, other times resigned and even ever so slightly hopeful and curious, are written against the backdrop of her quickly disintegrating marriage and her mental and emotional state.