Conclusion
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229 • Conclusion susan glaspell’s drama is a drama of revolt. It expresses the extent of her discontent with oppressive conventions and governmental policies, stages her protagonists’ insurrections against them, and provides possible alternatives. Glaspell’s drama of denunciation, resistance, and hope stands out as a work of deconstruction, construction, and reconstruction. A politically committed writer, Glaspell deconstructs in her plays the democratic, equalitarian fabric of her society to expose its flaws. If she commenced to write as soon as she discovered that “almost everything in politics is a story,” if she became a playwright on account of the duplicity of politics, we can conversely argue that “almost everything” in Glaspell’s stories is political. Glaspell’s plays not only denounce conventional and political oppression, but also envisage ways to counteract that oppression. The deconstruction and thus denunciation of what were deemed unfair American traditions and policies are combined with the construction of strategies to fight these injustices. The author introduces her readers and spectators to rebels who approach resistance differently whether they fight in the name of the community or for their own sakes. Besides her introduction to strategies of resistance, Glaspell envisages reconstruction and sees collaboration as a solution for laying the foundations of a new society. In The Social Significance of Modern Drama, Emma Goldman, Glaspell’s anarchist contemporary, writes that the social significance “which differentiates modern dramatic art from art for art’s sake” is “the dynamite which undermines superstition, shakes the social pillars, and prepares men and women for reconstruction” (3). Socially significant and therefore political, Glaspell’s drama does prepare “men and women Conclusion 230 for reconstruction” of “a better world than the world into which we were born” (Glaspell, “The Huntsmen”). Glaspell’s declaration at the 1942 Boston Book Fair on which this book opens may have struck her listeners—and the readers of this volume—as naively utopian. Yet her cautious use of the comparative “better” shows her sense of reality, which her staging of revolt confirmed. Glaspell writes to fight for a “better” if not “the best” society, for she is very much aware that such an ambitious enterprise is in itself self-defeating. Her realistic vision of the rejection of preexisting patterns is made explicit by her staging of the limits of the individualist rebellion and of the paradoxes of sacrifice that illustrate her pragmatic considerations of the feasible. Glaspell does not present her audience with an uncritical and innocent vision of rebellion but instead brings to the fore the tension between ideals and their concrete realization, making the suffering of compromise a prominent issue and making sacrifice a paradoxically spectacular and dramatically central action. Once again, she thus illustrates Brustein’s definition of modern drama: “The idea of revolt remains pure and absolute, but the act of revolt is usually a source of tension, suffering, or despair . . . It is this conflict between idea and action—between conception and execution— which forms the central dialectic of the modern drama” (9). One fundamental difference between Glaspell and the majority of her fellow modern playwrights, however, is that her drama “house[s] positive ideas” (Brustein 415). The playwright goes beyond the dramatization of negative rebellions and invites her audience to not only consider the next stage after the existing institutions have been dismantled but also contemplate the actual creation of this much-awaited “better world.” In a speech she gave as the director of the Midwest Play Bureau for the Federal Theatre , Glaspell expressed her eagerness to see other American playwrights write in the name of social justice: [T]he American theatre must take up and grow up—wake up to an age of expanding social consciousness, an age in which men are demanding that war and social injustice be outlawed, an age in which men are whispering through space, soaring to the stars, and flinging miles of steel and glass into the air. If the plays do not exist we shall have to write them. (“He Was an Artist”) Conclusion 231 American drama did take up and grow up after Glaspell’s time. But the plays written had lost the glimmer of hope which characterizes Glaspell’s work. As the cofounder of the Provincetown Players and Pulitzer Prize winner was relegated to the margins of dramatic history, her confidence in a better America was also to fade from the American stage. Under the overwhelming influence of Eugene O’Neill, despair, rather than hope, was now to dominate the theatrical landscape. O...


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