restricted access Part III: Susan Glaspell’s Drama of Hope
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

165 in his afterword to The Theatre of Revolt, Brustein concludes: Revolt is the energy which drives the modern theatre, just as faith drove the theatre of the past. Revolt, however, is not simply an energy but also a body of ideas, a system of values; and these have both their implicit and explicit aspects. In order to emphasize similarities rather than differences among the various playwrights, I have primarily examined the negative side of their revolt: inclined to disagree about what they are for, these playwrights are generally agreed about what they are against. My emphasis sounds like special pleading—but it is an emphasis very frequently made by the playwrights themselves. The theatre of revolt occasionally houses positive ideas . . . [b]ut more often, its values are implicit. In its negative critique of existing conventions and institutions, it rarely offers any substitute ideas or ideals. (415) Unlike most modern playwrights in Brustein’s eyes, Glaspell does offer her spectators and readers “substitute ideas or ideals” to replace the alienating “existing conventions and institutions” she criticizes: she envisages collaboration as the alternative to conventional coercive patterns that split society into the oppressed and the oppressors, and as the means to achieve social harmony in the face of political and cultural abuses (25). We can thus conclude that Glaspell stages “positive revolts.” Glaspell thus does not want “to increase the troubles of the world,” as one of her neighbors believed: “ ‘Don’t hold it against her, she is just that way,’ a member p a r t i i i • susan glaspell’s Drama of Hope d r a m a o f h o p e 166 of my family said to a neighbor who didn’t see why I should increase the troubles of the world by writing about them in books. Now I do not want to increase the troubles of the world. My neighbor had it turned upside down” (“The Huntsmen”). Willing to make her positive contribution to “the world,” Glaspell takes on the role of the reformer rather than that of the troublemaker, as she recalls in her 1924 Book Fair speech. The author pled in favor of solidarity , which she stages as the ultimate strategy to improve society. Rather than imposing this solution on her receptors, however, she invites them to question her fictional rebels’ actions. This implication of the receptors shows that Glaspell takes her role as a writer-reformer very seriously: she was fully aware that putting pen to paper made authors fully responsible before their readers or spectators. “The writer,” the playwright declares, “is not only responsible for his own life, but he calls people out of the blue and becomes responsible for them” (“The Huntsmen”). This final part focuses on one of Glaspell’s most distinctive features as a modern playwright, that is, her dramatization of collaboration as an alternative to oppression. The dramatist demonstrates in her work that solidarity grows out of mutual understanding. The awakening to solidarity becomes—for both the idealist and, surprisingly, the individualist malcontents—a source of empowerment resulting in collective improvement or self-realization. The playwright’s dramatization of collaboration is articulated on two levels: she considers cooperation an antidote to counteract oppressive convention, on the one hand, and to unjust governmental policies, on the other. In the face of patriarchal customs, Glaspell establishes sisterhood as a counter-model. But the playwright transcends gender boundaries in certain of her plays to demonstrate that sisterly solidarity may open to intergender bonding, which would benefit the whole population, since the strictly codified rules governing traditional patterns of interaction between women and men would give way to a much more egalitarian structure. As she stages the shift from female cohesion to intergender solidarization , Glaspell introduces the notion of national collaboration, a dimension she further explores in her portrayal of the idealist insurgents’ d r a m a o f h o p e 167 awakening to the need for solidarity with victims of governmental oppression . A vehicle of empowerment, solidarization paradoxically implies self-sacrifice on the part of the national heroes who display their “moral strength by the sacrifices which demand the abdication of the individual to the advantage of the community,” as Ernest Renan writes, to ensure the nation “the right to exist” as a democracy (53–54). Self-sacrifice is thus no renunciation but the affirmation of one’s resolution to defend the interests of the group which the idealist rebel, like the Camusian insurgent, considers...