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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." July 28, 2016. Accessed January 16, 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 January 16, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Act 2, Walpurgisnacht (Section 5) | Summary
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Summary

Honey is so drunk that she doesn't understand what George is saying and so agrees that they should play "Hump the Hostess." Nick tells Honey to shut up. Martha tells George that he is a "portrait of a man drowning," and he calls for a game called "Get the Guests." Honey is upset and Nick tries to leave with her, but George stops them. George says that he has written another novel, which he has kept secret from Martha. This novel is about a "nice couple from the Midwest," linking details to Nick and Honey. Honey finally catches on that the story George is making up is about her and Nick. Honey is especially upset when George says that Nick married Honey because he thought she was pregnant. Honey runs to the bathroom to vomit again. George ends the story by saying, "And that's how you play Get the Guests." When Nick protests George's cruelty, George responds, "By God, you gotta have a swine to show you where the truffles are."

Nick goes to see how Honey is doing. Martha and George call each other names. Martha tells George that, despite what he says about not being able to stand her attacks, he married her for them. George says she is lying. Martha responds that her arm has gotten tired from whipping George. Martha also says that George will wish he had died in the car accident by the time she finishes with him. George tells Martha that she will be sorry she ever mentioned their son.

George says he plans to have Martha committed to a mental institution, calling her a monster. Martha responds by claiming she is loud, vulgar, and in charge, but not a monster. Martha says she doesn't care about George at all: something snapped inside of her at her father's party. George and Martha vow total war—she vows to make the biggest explosion she has ever made. George threatens to beat her at her own game. They seem relieved by their decision.

Analysis

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a long play by contemporary standards, running about three hours. Albee uses the "Get the Guests" game to turn attention away from George and Martha while keeping the action going, and the tension building, toward the climax.

Nick has been trying to deflect George's cruel description of his marriage through the fictitious novel. George's reply about truffles is a metaphor. A delicacy, wild truffles grow underground and are often found by specially trained pigs that sniff them out. George's comment suggests that he is the crude pig and the hidden treasures are the secrets in Nick and Honey's marriage. In other words, he is saying that Nick and Honey are no better than George and Martha.

George and Martha's vow to have "total war" once again evokes the Cold War between the Americans and the Soviets and the willingness of the two superpowers to compete in an exercise of mutually assured destruction. After decades of Cold War tension, an all-out nuclear war might feel like a relief, but the earth would be destroyed, of course, so it is clearly not a viable solution for a release of tension.

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