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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. 20 Oct. 2017. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/>.

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Course Hero. (2016, July 28). Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from 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 October 20, 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 October 20, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf/.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? | Act 2, Walpurgisnacht (Section 7) | Summary

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Summary

Hearing the chimes, Honey comes back into the room. Half-asleep, she talks about a frightening dream she had. George ignores her and says that he is going to get Martha. Honey begins to cry, saying that she doesn't want children. George shakes his head and kindly says, "I should have known," which upsets Honey. George wants to know if Honey takes birth control pills without telling Nick. Upset, Honey demands that Nick return and then asks for a drink. George calls Honey a "simpering bitch."

George decides that the bells were announcing their son's death. Honey says she is going to be sick. Martha laughs offstage, and Honey announces that she is going to die. George calls to Martha, telling her that he has some "terrible news" for her. He says their son is dead and starts to laugh and cry at the same time as Act 2 ends.

Analysis

Honey calls the hall chimes "Poe bells," a reference to the poem "The Bells" by Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849). Generally, the poem is read as someone mourning for the death of a beloved. In Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the reference to the bells can be interpreted as the death of George and Martha's son. But inasmuch as their son is not real, the scene represents a new low in their marriage, perhaps its final death knell.

The "game" that George and Martha play in this act builds from harmless fun to the all-out destruction associated with war. The act is filled with references to war, power, and destruction and reflects what is happening in the United States and on the world stage, from the fear of Russian invasion (the Cold War) to the failure of the American Dream. The spirit of these references is also reflected in George and Martha's life, which is like their own personal Cold War: a long, protracted battle in which words are the main weapons used. Of course, for George and Martha, words have the ability to draw blood.

George symbolically kills their son so he and Martha can move on; by discarding their illusion, perhaps they can have a happy, "normal" life. Even though the son is not real, his death still conveys great emotional power.

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