Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Shrike by Joseph Kramm (1952)

Summary:  Jim finds himself in a mental institution after a failed suicide attempt.  He frustrates doctors by telling them that he's not really sure why he tried to commit suicide--only giving them a number of vague reasons.  Instead of being discharged a few days after his intake, he is moved to an observation floor where he learns that he is going to have to "play ball" to get discharged--or else he is going to be sent to the state hospital.  Meanwhile, his wife Ann (they have been separated for three months) sees this as an opportunity to get him back.  We infer that she has asked doctors to keep him for a few extra days so that she can clean out his bachelor pad and make him dependent on her once again.

Thoughts:  Another in a series of plays (that I have read for this project) that is entirely dependent on interpersonal relationships rather than action or memorable dialogue.  Frustratingly, Jim never offers a concrete answer for why he attempted suicide--just general feelings of vague unhappiness and regret.  At the end of the play, his doctor is discharging him even though he knows that Jim has simply learned how to play the game.  We know that Jim is not better, nor is he in love with Ann (as he now claims to her and various doctors).  The last line of the play is a phone call with Ann where he announces his discharge from the hospital, asks her to pick him up and asks her to bring a necktie with him--after ties have been conspicuously absent from the entire play.

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