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Free «The Darker Face of the Earth by Rita Dove» Essay Sample


A play is a type of literature that consists of a scripted conversation between characters meant for theatrical performance as opposed to just reading. The term play refers to both the full theatrical performance of playwrights and their written works. There are different play genres such as comedy, satire, history, and tragedy plays. This paper critically analyses the modern play The Darker Face of the Earth, in terms of its characters, setting, plot, theme, and other literary elements. It also discusses the similarities and differences between the two plays,The Darker Face of the Earth and The Glass Menagerie. In addition, the paper explores the theme of immorality, drawing examples from the three plays, The Darker Face of the Earth, The Glass Menagerie, and Fences, as well as a topic involving some aspect of modern drama as illustrated in the three plays assigned.

The Darker Face of the Earth by Rita Dove

In the play, the author retells the Greek drama Oedipus in the light of an African American slave, while exploring other aspects of the American history such as racial tensions, freedom, civil rights and slavery among others (Dove 1).  The play is set on a plantation in South Carolina prior to the Civil War. At the beginning of the play a married white woman Amalia who is the proprietor of a plantation and has had an affair with an African slave is intoduced. She gives birth to a son and gives him up for adoption because of her husband’s threats to kill him. Meanwhile, Hector, the father of her son, becomes insane and runs into the woods. Several years later, Augustus comes back to the plantation and is seduced by Amalia, who is unaware that he is her son. Augustus ends up sleeping with her. Upon realizing that he has taken his mother to bed, he kills his father, Louis, and wanted to kill his mother too, but she takes her own life in order to save her son. There are clever turnings all through the play that leaves the reader unaware of what will happen next, thus, adding flavor to the play. Through music, slave rituals, and spells, the author manages to turn the play from a mere dramatic literature to a theatrical spectacle.



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The author introduces several characters in the drama. Augustus Newcastle is the protagonist in the play, and a fearless, rebellious slave. His lack of fear is evident in his statement when he said, ‘‘Fear! Fear eats out the heart. It’ll cause kings and field niggers alike to crawl in their own piss’’ (Dove 58). Another character is Amalia Jennings, who is the white female who owns the plantation and has an affair with Hector, a black slave. The affair results in the birth of a son. Other characters include Scylla, who believes she can foretell everything, including the dreadful things that transpire in the plantation; as well as Pheobe, who despite being a slave is seen by Augustus as a freedom leader of the future.

Several themes are discussed in the play such as pride, female dominance, tragedy etc. For instance, the theme of pride dominates throughout the play as evidenced when Amalia takes over the role of men and runs her plantation, as well as when she flouts social convention and decides to have an affair with a black man. Augustus is also a very proud character who views himself as the slaves’ savior and a superior to his employers. Meanwhile, Scylla’s pride is seen in the way she believes that only she can foretell the future happenings and understands what is going on at the plantation (Dove 45). Female dominance is another theme discussed in the play. While Ancient Greek rulers were men, women taking leadership positions is no longer an unusual thing in the modern America. This is evident by the way Amalia manages the plantation, even better than men.  It is worth mentioning that setting the play within the slave plantation during the 18th century not only increased the reader’s credibility to the story, but also their connection to the play’s characters. The play is indeed an eye opener in the history of America.

The Similarities And Differences Between The Two Plays The Darker Face of the Earth and The Glass Menagerie

The two plays above have some similarities and differences. For instance, both plays were launched in the United States, i.e. The Darker Face of the Earth was set in South Carolina, while The Glass Menagerie was premiered in Chicago. However, the first play is set in a slave plantation, while the second one occurred in the Wingfield’s apartment, located near St. Louis. Both plays have male protagonists Augustus Newcastle and Tom Wingfield for The Darker Face of the Earth and The Glass Menagerie respectively. While the former play explores the themes of slavery, racial discrimination, female dominance, and pride, the latter discusses themes such as the unrelenting power of memory and the impossibility of true escape. However, the difficulty of dealing with reality is a theme that dominates in both plays. In The Darker Face of the Earth, the inability to accept that he had slept with his mother causes Augustus to kill his father (Dove 99). This theme is also applicable to Hector, the black slave who turns mad after learning that her affair with Amalia resulted in a son.

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On the other hand, in the The Glass Menagerie, Amanda Wingfield and her two children Tom and Laura find it difficult to cope with life when her husband leaves them; an act that causes emotional and financial meltdown. Perhaps, the emotional void caused by their father’s absence is what drives Laura to be extremely shy and unsocial to the extent that she drops out of a typing course she was enrolled in. Laura’s lack of social skills makes her a very unpopular person and, consequently, she does not have male suitors. While telling her mother that she did not expect calls from gentlemen, she stated, ‘‘I’m not popular like you [Amanda] were’’ (Williams 56).

A Discussion Of The Theme Of Immorality In The Three Plays: The Darker Face Of The Earth, The Glass Menagerie, And Fences.

In all three plays, there is a great deal of immorality taking place amongst the characters. For instance, in The Darker Face Of The Earth, we see Amalia, the white female plantation owner, sleeping with Hector, one of the black slaves who works at her plantation. I consider her act immoral because she does not sleep with him out of love, but scorn for being black and a slave. In addition, despite knowing that she is married, she goes ahead and cheats on the husband. Towards the end of the play, the same Amalia, ends up sleeping with her own son, which causes a series of tragedies i.e. Augustus kills his father, and Amalia takes her own life. On the other hand, in Fences, the theme of wickedness is evident in the actions of Troy’s father when he beat his son for finding her with a girl he liked, then went ahead and raped the girl (Wilson 123). In fact, according to Troy, no woman could cope with his father’s evil for very long, and that is why most of his life he grew up without a mother. In The Glass Menagerie, I find it inhuman and wicked forAmanda’s husband to abandon his wife and children without proper reasons; an act which makes them suffer both emotionally and financially.


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