Study Guide

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

By Edward Albee

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Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Shadow of Confusion

Everyone is trapped in illusion.

George and Martha welcome Nick and Honey into their world of darkness. Wicked words fly back and forth to hilarious and destructive effect. No one is sure what is truth and what is lies. Everyone is trapped in illusion – Nick and Honey in the mirage of a perfect marriage, George and Martha in the mirage of their son.

Pressure of Darkness

Under the weight of vicious personal attacks, the illusions begin to crumble.

The darkness only thickens as the characters continue to attack each other. Inch by inch, their illusions are beginning to crack. It's becoming obvious that there are real problems in Nick and Honey's marriage. George and Martha's son is becoming a topic of suspicion.

Everything Comes to Light

George shatters all illusions.

George shatters everyone's illusions. He exposes the flaw at the core of Nick and Honey's relationship with a wicked game of "Get the Guest." He also reveals the fact that he and Martha's son is imaginary. With the destruction of these illusions the characters are now free in a way they weren't before. The ending of the play also bears a close resemblance to classic comedy in that the characters pair off in the end. Both couples end up together, which was very much in doubt over the course of the play.

Unlike most comedies, however, the characters aren't all happy-go-lucky at the end. The stripping of illusion has laid them bare to the emptiness of their lives. In some ways the ending resembles tragedy, as the characters have all paid the price of their flaws. There's also been a death of sorts, though it is of an imaginary person. Because the play has tragic elements fused into its comic structure it is often called a tragicomedy.

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