Study Guide

Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

By Edward Albee

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Nick is the young, handsome professor who has the misfortune of being tormented for an evening by George and Martha. The young man shows a pretty strong backbone in the early scenes of the play. George, who is threatened by Nick's youth and potential, tries his best to put Nick down. The disgruntled host mainly does this by attempting to outwit Nick and reveal him to be an intellectual inferior. Nick may not get all of George's literary and historical references, but he still holds his own. Take a look at the interchange below, and notice how Nick doesn't give and inch to George's intellectual games.

GEORGE: I asked you how you liked that for a declension: Good; better; best; bested. Hm? Well?[…]NICK: Do you want me to say it's funny so you can contradict me and say it's sad? Or do you want me to say it's sad so you can turn around and say, no, it's funny. You can play that damn little game any way you want to, you know! (1.285-1.288)

Though, Nick begins the play seeming firm and upright, he eventually becomes entrapped in the hideous world of George and Martha. Martha ends up luring him into attempted adultery, all as part of her game to punish George. For Nick, it also seems to be an act of revenge. Not long before the attempted adultery he says to George, "I'm going to make you regret this. […] I'll play the charades like you've got 'em set up…I'll play in you language" (2.606). Of course, Nick's revenge doesn't work out so well; when he gets Martha up to the bedroom, he can't complete the sexual act.

By the end of the play, Nick almost seems at home with George and Martha. He launches insults almost as their equal. The cruelest of these is probably when Nick makes a cutting remark about George having killed his parents. Nick marriage is also revealed to be similar to George and Martha's. Just like his hosts' relationship, Nick's relationship with Honey is based on illusion. He admits that he doesn't feel passion for Honey. Nick just married her because her father was rich, and he thought she was pregnant. His lack of true affection for Honey becomes more and more apparent over that course of his play as he begins lashing out angrily at her dimwitted remarks.

By the time George and Martha finally allow Nick to limp out of the room, all of his human faults have been revealed. This man, who seemed like a bright beacon of perfection at the beginning of the play, has been thoroughly and irrevocably exposed.

Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Group

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