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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Edward Albee

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Course Hero. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide." Course Hero. 28 July 2016. Web. 27 July 2017. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/>.

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Course Hero. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide." July 28, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

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Course Hero, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide," July 28, 2016, accessed July 27, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Act 2, Walpurgisnacht (Section 2) | Summary

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Summary

George and Nick discuss their wives: George says that Martha has never been pregnant. George says that Martha is a Cyclops and their son is a "bean bag." George says Nick is "testy." Nick is annoyed, but their squabble stops when Martha calls out from the kitchen that she is making coffee. She and George call each other names in French. Martha tells George to clean up the mess. George tells Nick that for years he has been trying to clean up the mess.

Nick admits that Honey comes from a wealthy family. Nick and George talk about how they met their wives. Nick explains that he and Honey met when they were very young and used to play "doctor." They got married largely because, in addition to thinking Honey was pregnant, they were expected to by their family and friends; however, Nick admits they were never in love. The men drink more and talk about how much Americans drink. Nick tells George that Honey's father was "called by God" and started preaching. He made a lot of money, which he spent on churches and other civic projects, but he still has plenty of wealth.

Analysis

How could George and Martha have a son if George says that Martha has never been pregnant? This question adds to the theme of illusion versus reality and helps Albee intensify the conflict and build to the play's climax.

George calls Martha a "Cyclops," a mythical, one-eyed, ancient Greek monster. Calling Martha a Cyclops is another way of saying that she is a hideous monster. In Greek mythology Odysseus blinds the Cyclops by plunging a stake into its eye. The way the Cyclops dies also contributes to the play's theme of violence.

The use of language is important in the play. In Act 2 George says that Nick is being "testy," which is repeated three times, so the audience knows the word has great significance. On the surface George means that Nick is irritable. However, even though the word testy comes from a root that means "headstrong," it is similar to the word testicles, which reminds the audience of how Martha emasculates George throughout the play. She uses language (her vicious put-downs and insults) and her fists (her humiliating story of knocking him out with a roundhouse punch during a boxing match staged by her father) to demean George whenever she can.

The theme of religion emerges as the audience learns Nick's father-in-law made his money as a preacher. Religion, however, seems absent in the lives of the characters except as a source of Honey's money. Instead, the characters cope with the alienation, despair, and desperation in their lives by drinking.

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