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  • Topic: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, World War II, Edward Albee
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2011 HSC Paper 2 Module A Advanced: Comparative Study of Texts and Contexts

Elective 2: Texts in Time

In what ways does a comparative study accentuate the distinctive contexts of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and A Room of One’s Own?

Sample response: Drama and non-fiction

Prescribed texts: A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf, 1928
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee, 1962

|Establishing the thesis of the response: |At first glance, Virginia Woolf’s 1928 critical essay, A Room of One’s Own and Edward Albee’s | |that the different contexts affect the |1962 play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, have nothing in common but a name. They do, | |ways that common content is explored and |however, share a number of features. They are both concerned with exposing deep-seated | |presented |problems, they both examine relationships between men and women, they both comment on academia| | |and the role of education and they both do these things in an entertaining, ironic and often | | |humorous way. By comparing the content and style of each text, we can see how the different | | |contexts result in differences in approach. | |The purpose of the play |Both texts want to “shatter the shell of false reality”, Artaud’s description of the Theatre | | |of Cruelty style that Albee adopts in his play. The false reality that Albee wants to expose | | |is the myth of the American Dream, with its complacent materialism and lack of genuine | | |communication and feeling. Post-World War II comfort and affluence mask the underlying | | |unhappiness and loss of deeper purpose that Albee equated with a “national moral decline”. He| | |uses a Cold War analogy to show Americans in a figurative war with themselves and each other, | |Establishes the context of the play and |primarily through the tempestuous and hurtful relationship of Martha and George, but also | |links it to stylistic features |through the tension between George and Nick, named after Nikita Khrushchev, and the way that | | |Martha and George frequently attack their guests. The action of the play moves through a | | |series of major and minor skirmishes, to finish with a sense of detente and perhaps some | | |future peace after the ‘exorcism’ of the child. | |Connects both texts through content, but |Woolf’s purpose is also to expose a harsh reality underlying superficial social complacency. | |differentiates them through context |By 1928, English women had made some significant advances in the struggle for genuine equality| | |with men, particularly in being able to earn and retain their own incomes and to vote. They | | |were also gradually gaining access to education, but these things were limited by class and | | |wealth. Woolf digs beneath the veneer of progress to show how unequal women’s rights still | | |were and how far beyond the reach of all but a very few women. However, as a woman, she cannot| | |be overtly critical, as this will create hostility in men, who are the ones who have the power| | |to change the situation. She must help her...
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