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Maria Irene Fornes’s The Conduct of Life: Critical Reflections on the Human Quality of Violence

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(1), pp.109-127
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

황규철 1

1중앙대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The criticism on Maria Irene Fornes’s The Conduct of Life has been concentrated on feminism. The feministic views on the play can be divided into the affirmative views and the negative ones. Whereas the former admire highly the household chores and the female characters’ self-knowledge, the latter offer harsh criticism on the female characters’ speech and behavior. This essay will criticize the blind defenses and the biased denunciations of feminism and prove that not only males but also females have a violent quality and that both the subject and the object of violence cannot escape from the destructive influences of it. For this argument, I will examine the three forms of violence revealed by Orlando and the outcome of the other characters exposed by his violence. Orlando shows physical, verbal, and sexual violence to other characters. However, he does not seriously reflect on his brutality and, from the beginning to the end, justifies his cruel and violent speech and behavior. After witnessing Orlando’s torture of Felo, Alejo becomes sexually impotent and loses his hope for the future. After killing Orlando for his atrocious torture of her, Leticia finally discovers in her dark self the violent quality similar to Orlando, but immaturely tries to impute the crime to Nena. Olimpia aggressively denounces Orlando's violence against Nena and his mocking of her speech defect. Nena, who is the ultimate victim of Orlando’s violence, shows deep understanding of human nature and tries to observe her Christian creed of life. In conclusion, The Conduct of Life reveals the diverse outcome of five characters exposed by human violence—self-destruction caused by the boomerang effect of violence(Orlando), sexual impotence and hopelessness for the future(Alejo), self-knowledge lacking in practice(Leticia), healthy criticism on violence(Olimpia), following the Christian creed of life(Nena). Therefore, the most outstanding achievement of Fornes in the play is that she transcends the prejudiced views of feminism and explores the universal theme of the human quality of violence without losing compassion on her characters and, simultaneously, keeping a critical distance from them.

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