Growing Up as Teenagers

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Am I Blue, is a one-act play written by a southern woman playwright, Beth Henley. At the age of twenty, Henley wrote this first play; and it may also have been a play that reflected her passage to adulthood. As a play written for her love, Stuart White, this is a comical, yet very serious play because it deals with problems that many teenagers face. In the play, two teenagers, John Polk Richards and Ashbe Williams, meet for the first time at a bar and become very well acquainted with each other by the end of the play, even in spite of their differences in personalities and personal problems. Billy J. Harbin also stated that “the play examines the lives of two lonely teenagers who are deprived of both parental and peer group acceptance” (Harbin 89). Henley’s Am I Blue uses literary elements such as language, setting, symbolism, and character to suggest her general theme that for teenagers, being able to feel accepted by others is a very important factor, especially during times of pain, rejection, or loneliness.

First, the language of the play helps one understand the plot more easily from the exposition to the resolution. This play is in modern English and written in a colloquial form that makes it definitely a lot easier for the reader to relate to normal conversations that typical teenagers may have today. There are also a lot of questions that are involved as well. These questions show the readers how John Polk and Ashbe have never met each other and do not know each other from the beginning. These also help the readers get the answers to the five “what? who? why? when? where?” questions. Throughout the play, the tone is mostly comical, but also depressing when John Polk and Ashbe describe their background problems, and that helps make the play become more interesting and entertaining to the readers or audience. The language that is also used helps the readers learn more about what is happening in the play as well as why things are the way they are.

Furthermore, the setting of this play, both the social and physical environment, is very important especially in Am I Blue. Stuart Spencer states that “like the tools of structure, it can be invisible, or at least unobtrusive, [but the playwright] can use [the setting] as a means to help give the play structure” (Spencer 268). The social or time setting through out this play is during the fall of 1968 when the war in Vietnam was still taking place and many people who were experiencing depression kept on increasing in numbers all across the nation, too. Likewise, this time of year affects both John Polk and Ashbe because the atmosphere mostly throughout the nation was not enjoyable and there was a lot of historical and political chaos at the time of the play such as the war not only in Vietnam but disagreements with other certain countries, unemployment, protests, the Civil Rights Movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert Kennedy’s assassination as well. This time period of many negative events may have also have had to do or influenced John Polk and Ashbe’s characteristics and personalities. On the other hand, the three main physical settings of the play are the bar, the street, and the living room of Ashbe’s run-down apartment. Like Henley’s Crimes of the Heart play that was set “in the Magrath sister’s house in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a small southern town” (Henley 4), Am I Blue was also set in a small southern town because it gives the idea how John Polk and Ashbe somehow knew about the same people such as the whore, Myrtle Reims or “G.G.” In the beginning, the bar is the first setting of the play that starts the exposition because here we learn that John Polk is trying to get himself drunk while he is about to become eighteen by midnight, and Ashbe is stealing from somebody else and tries to hide. We also learn that John only wants to be alone because he feels lonely, does not want to be disturbed, and is trying to escape his peer pressures from his...
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