Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

Fall 8-5-1964

Abstract

A detailed analysis of the dramatic structure used in The Cherry Orchard and The Three Sisters reveals the comedy of Chekhov's dramas which is often denied by directors and critics. A similar analysis of Paradise Lost and Awake and Sing! reveals a depth of perception in Odets' early dramas which has been overlooked in the proletarian interpretations to which the plays have been limited. The comparison of methods used by these playwrights exhibits a similarity which is explored, not to suggest a Chekhovian influence, but to enable a more perceptive interpretation of Odets. Both playwrights were primarily concerned with character, and their plays are constructed by the fusion of various individual plots. As the characters are frustrated in their separate hopes, the impact of the dramas is heightened. Close analysis reveals that the characters gesture verbally and physically, but their gestures are inappropriate to their situations. In the end, the characters are responsible for their own failures. Thus character development is achieved by incongruous dialogue and action. Serious and comic aspects of life are juxtaposed throughout the plays suggesting reality and necessitating objective viewing. Odets has been too often identified as a proletarian writer whose only concern was to reveal the economic conditions of his era. Unlike Odets, Chekhov created his dramas with no direct reference to historical setting. A just evaluation of both playwrights is possible only if character rather than historical setting becomes the major concern of director or critic. Through characterization, the plays achieve universality.

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