The Art of Violence: Healey’s Character Representation in The Drawer Boy Reviewed by Word Press critic Michael Dykstra, the Canadian play The Drawer Boy, by Michael Healey, has been suggested to be a play containing “no violence” (Dykstra); however, this conclusion deserves further analysis. In the play, the author uses violence as a way to create an identity for Angus, a main character, as well as a method to develop Angus’s character. Through this play, Healey creates a personality for Angus that, although innocent at first, evolves through his exposure to violence and establishes within him an aggressive disposition. In the first two scenes of they play, Healey portrays Angus as being easily distracted, or as Marlene Moser writes,“ childlike and simple” (Moser 232);however, the author later hints that there is more to Angus than meets the eye. As a result of Angus’ violent accident in the Second World War, Healey is able to guide his audience in seeing what type of person Angus really is. The author subtly lays out an identity for Angus by revealing certain behaviours that have remained logged in his subconscious even with his terrible memory loss. For instance, the act of Angus getting Morgan a spoonful of water when he is hurt by the tractor, tells a bit about the type of person Angus is. When Angus first “shoves the spoon in Morgan’s mouth” (Healey 538) it seems odd, but the motion is later related to the repeated action of his lover Sally feeding him a spoonful of medicine when he was injured. Once Angus realizes Morgan is hurt, his reaction is to give him ‘medicine’ so that he may get better. A second action Angus repeats is that of making a sandwich. The significance of this activity, is that more than once does Healey create a pattern where “Morgan takes the sandwich” (535) and then “Angus starts to make another sandwich” (535). Angus continues to make sandwiches throughout the play as long as someone needs or wants one. When Morgan is hungry, his friend reacts by making him a sandwich which is a way of providing for another. A third reoccurring behaviour Angus retains from his violent accident is baking bread. Throughout several occasions within the play, Healey shows Angus in a situation where he is baking bread. At one point, Morgan says to Miles about Angus that “He’s ruined more bread…” (548), inferring that Angus baking bread is not a one time thing. All of these habits that Angus remembers even after his mishap are significant in the sense that they are all related to the same of idea of nurturing. Of everything he could have remembered Angus retains these caring habits that are motivated by the goal of taking care of another. One could infer that Angus’ memory has been able to hold to these types of actions because they are a part of whom he is, and that a horrible incident has helped reveal his true self. If it was not for Angus having a piece of shaft go through his head during the war, the play’s audience might assume his kindness is just an act. However, the fact that his violent accident had an effect on his memory and not those specific qualities most definitely plays in favour of the idea that it is because those genuine qualities are a part of his nature. Healey uses the Angus’ tragic incident as a way to create violence within that play that enables the revealing of Angus’ true identity. Healey’s exposure of Angus’ repetitive actions is not the only method he uses as a way to reflect who Angus’ character really is. The author also creates for his audience situations where Angus is being subjected to violence related topics that present the opportunity for his true self to surface. For instance, when Miles is telling Angus about the Shakespearian tragedy of Hamlet, he is exposing him to a violent topic. In Miles’ retelling of the story, he mentions the horrifying act of Hamlet killing his stepfather. In response to what he has heard,...
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