Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Smokescreens by Harold Brighouse

                                                      Smokescreens by Harold Brighouse             
Summary
The play “Smokescreens” has at least three basic ideas or themes. The first theme is that every character in the play has a duel personality. They hide their real personality behind smokescreens. The second theme is the bad effects of broken families on children. The third theme is the generation gap.
Susan has come to London to see her sister Lucy. Primrose is her niece and very modern. She goes to nightclubs late at night. She smokes cigarettes and wears lipstick.
Susan is conservative and does not like this. She hides her bag so that she may not go out. Actually, she wants to have a talk with her. Primrose needs her handbag because there are cigarettes and lipstick in it. Then she comes to know that her Aunt Susan has her handbag. She takes her handbag and leaves.
Susan objects that Lucy has not disciplined her daughter but Lucy defends herself. They exchange their views as how children should be brought up.
Lucy is a self-made woman. She has divorced her husband, because he is unfaithful. She starts a business of taxicabs. She gives all her time to her business and ignores her daughter. Primrose is against her mother because of that. She does not like her mother’s views on the institution of marriage. She sends her friend Clarice to tell her mother and aunt that she is going to marry John. John is Clarice’s brother and is very ugly.
Clarice tells Lucy and Susan about her ugly brother in detail. Later Primrose also comes there and breaks the news of her marriage. Her mother is shocked but hides her feelings. Primrose and Lucy have a talk and then Primrose leaves telling her that John is waiting in the dining room.
  1. What are the basic ideas or themes of the play “Smokescreens”.
The play “Smokescreens” has at least three basic ideas or themes. The first theme is that all the characters in the play have duel personalities. They hide their real personalities behind smokescreens. The second theme is the bad effects of broken families on children. The third theme is the generation gap.
When we read the play carefully, we see that all the three main characters hide themselves behind smokescreens. They pretend what they are not. Primrose pretends to be a rude and spoiled girl. However, later in the story she begs her aunt’s forgiveness and tells her that she does so only to avoid conversation. She tells her aunt that she behaves just like a cuttlefish that squirts out a flood of ink to hide it from attack.
Aunt Susan pretends to have the Victorian morality. However, surprisingly she tells a lie about her headache just to stop Primrose from going out. Lucy pretends that she does not have any care or love for her daughter, but actually, she is a loving and caring mother.  The writer shows her love for her daughter at the end of the play.
The second theme is that a broken family has very bad effects n children. They are spoiled. They are rude and disrespectful to their elders and do what they like. They are confused and do such things as are not good for them.
The third theme is the generation gap. The writer has depicted the generation gap very successfully. The old generation is hard and harsh towards the young generation and has the Victorian morality. However, the young generation is rude. The people of this generation want to live according to the demands of their society. (285)
  1. Bring out the conflict between Primrose and Aunt Susan or generation gap in the play.
The conflict between Primrose and Aunt Susan is that Aunt Susan wants Primrose not to go out at night, whereas Primrose is not ready to listen to her. Actually, they have conflict because of the generation gap.
Aunt Susan has come to London to see her sister. She is 50 and believes in the Victorian morality. She is conservative and believes that children should be treated very harshly. They should be spanked to teach discipline. She also believes that parents should use power of the purse to prevent children from doing undesirable things. Therefore, she decides to talk to Primrose rather harshly. That is why she hides to talk to Primrose’s handbag just to stop her from going out and to talk to her.
Primrose is a representative of the young generation. She wants to do what she likes. She wants to go out wearing lipstick and smoking cigarettes. She is not ready to listen to her aunt and she behaves rudely to her. She wants to live own life. She is not ready to be dictated by the old generation.
Therefore, this is the conflict between Primrose and Aunt Susan. Actually, it is a conflict between the old and the young generation. (203)
  1. Bring out the conflict between Lucy and Susan.
The conflict between Aunt Susan and Lucy is that Aunt Susan thinks that Lucy spoiled Primrose. She has not brought her up according to the Victorian morality. She has spoiled her by telling wrong things about her father. However, Lucy defends herself and says that what she did was right.
Aunt Susan believes in the Victorian morality. She is conservative and believes that children should be treated very harshly and they should be spanked to teach discipline. She also believes that parents should use power of the purse to prevent children from doing undesirable things.
Lucy represents old but liberal minded generation and does not believe in the Victorian morality. The people of this generation believe: “Give our children a better time than we had ourselves.” Therefore, the people like Lucy do not try to discipline their children. That is why Lucy does not stop Primrose from doing anything.
Aunt Susan says that she has spoiled Primrose by telling her that her father was a scoundrel and her mother was a fool who married him. Lucy says that she did that because she had to justify her divorce before Primrose.
Therefore, we can conclude that the conflict between Aunt Susan and Lucy is that Aunt Susan thinks that Lucy has spoiled Primrose. She has not brought her up according to the Victorian morality. She has spoiled her by telling her wrong things about her father. However, Lucy defends herself and says that what she did was right. (247)
  1. Why did Primrose decide to marry ugly John instead of marrying a charming man?
Primrose decided to marry ugly John instead of a charming man because of the following reasons:
Firstly, she decided to marry ugly John because it would be an insult to her mother if she married a charming man. She said, “I’ve not insulted you. If I’d picked a charming man….” Actually, her father was a charming man. Probably, she had told her daughter that all charming men were unfaithful. She divorced her father because of that. If fact, Lucy had told her so to justify her divorce. Now Primrose was a grown up girl and she knew that not all men were equal. That was why she decided to marry ugly John.
Secondly, she thought that if she married a charming man, her mother would exert her influence on her and would not let her marry. She said to her mother, “Well, for a Charles, you’d have had the right to exert your influence….”
Thirdly, she thought that her mother made a mistake, when she married a charming man. She said that she was marrying an ugly man who was different from her charming father. Therefore, it was a different mistake.
Fourthly, she thought that her mother had been sentimental when she married a charming man, whereas she was not being sentimental. She meant to say that her decision of marrying an ugly man was quite sensible.
Lastly, she decided to marry ugly John because she was in love with him. She told her mother that she was going to marry ugly John because he made her feel all funny inside.
Therefore, these were the reasons behind her marrying ugly John. (271)
  1. Bring out the conflict between Primrose and Lucy.
The conflict between Primrose and Lucy is on two levels and they have strained relation because of this conflict.
Firstly, there is conflict because Lucy and Primrose have different views on the institution of marriage. Lucy has been talking against the institution of marriage. That is why Primrose says, “Oh, I know what it means to talk about marriage in this house! It is like talking about something decent people don’t mention.” Lucy may be telling Primrose that the institution of marriage is not a good institution. Primrose says, “…I think marriage is a jolly fine institution.”
She tells that Lucy will not let her marry because Lucy is very young to be a mother-in-law. She says, “I think my mother would prefer me to remain unmarried.” She also thinks that she is a marrying woman, whereas her mother is not.
Secondly, Primrose thinks that her mother neglects her and gives more time to her business. Her business is more important to her than her daughter is. She says to her mother about taxicabs, “They mean more to than I do.” At this Lucy says, “They have their uses.” Primrose gets angry at this answer and says, “I’ve been an awful ass?”
Actually, Lucy has been neglecting Primrose with a purpose. She does not want to impose strict discipline on her. She wants that Primrose should have every chance of enjoying life. However, Primrose misunderstands her. At the end of the story Lucy says, “Taxicabs! Taxicabs, and she believed me!”
Therefore, we can conclude that the conflict between Primrose and Lucy is on two levels and they have strained relation because of his conflict. We can say that mostly Lucy is responsible for this conflict. (285)
  1. How is an independent career a living protest against the necessary of marriage?
Lucy was a self-made woman but against the institution of marriage.
Primrose was a marrying woman like her Aunt Susan. Discuss.
When we read the play “Smokescreens” carefully, we see that Lucy and Primrose had conflicting views on the institution of marriage. She said to her mother, “I’m a marrying woman. It’s tough to be a marrying woman….”
Actually, Lucy, her mother, had divorced Primrose’s father and set him away. At that time, he had a car. She hired it out and drove it. She worked very hard for fifteen years. Now she owned three garages and numberless taxicabs. She did not marry again because she was trying to expand her business. She had no time for marriage. Actually, she did not need to marry a man because she had everything. It is in this sense that Primrose thought that an independent career was a living protest against the necessary of marriage.
Unlike her mother, Primrose was a marrying woman, because she had no interest in business or independent career. She said to her mother, “My mother worked, and I didn’t. I haven’t the brains. I think I’m like Aunt Susan in one way. I’m a marrying woman.” Therefore, she compared herself with Aunt Susan because Aunt Susan did not have an independent career. She had a happy family life with a husband and two good sons. This was also according to Primrose’s nature. (213)
  1. Primrose is a child of a broken family. Discuss.
No doubt, Primrose is a child of a broken family. The child of a broken family is usually spoiled. He is rude and disrespectful to his elders and does whatever he likes.
When we read the play “Smokescreens” carefully, we find that Primrose is just like that. She goes out at night wearing lipstick and smoking cigarettes. She probably goes to nightclubs that are very bad places. She is rude and disrespectful to her elders. When Aunt Susan hides her handbag, she talks to her rudely. She threatens her that she will spill her on the ground if she does not give her the handbag. She does not listen to her aunt and goes out. When she talks to her mother, she calls her by her name.
We see that Primrose does what she likes. Once when she decides to go out, she does not listen to her aunt and mother. She does not give up smoking in spite of the advice of her aunt. Similarly, when she decides to marry an ugly man, she does not listen to her mother who does not like her decision.
Lucy, her mother is mainly responsible for that. She gives all her time and energies to her business. She neglects her daughter who is very sore about it. Primrose says to her mother about the taxicabs, “They mean more to you than I do?” At this Lucy says, “They have their uses.” Lucy tells her sister, I couldn’t be a domestic mother to my daughter while I was running a business.”
Primrose sums up all this by telling her aunt that it is not particularly easy to be Primrose. Actually, she means to say that she is like that because she belongs to a broken family. (293)
  1. The title of the poem is justified. Discuss.
The title of the play “Smokescreens” is quite justified. It is very meaningful and symbolic. ‘Smokescreens’ in the context of the play means a veil of smoke behind which a character hides his real personality and feelings.
When we read the play, we find that there are three main characters in the play and they all have their own smokescreens. They hide their real feelings and personalities and pretend to be what they are not.
The first main character is Aunt Susan. She pretends to be a very civilized and conservative woman. She pretends to have the Victorian morality. However, surprisingly she tells a lie about her headache just to stop Primrose from going out. Apparently, she sympathizes her sister but inwardly she enjoys hers sister’s bad condition. Lucy notices that and asks her not to look so complacent.
The second main character is Primrose. She pretends to be a rude and spoiled girl. She is rude to her aunt and even threatens to spill her on the ground. She is not ready to listen to her aunt. She wears lipstick and goes to nightclubs. However, later in the story she begs her aunt’s forgiveness and tells her that she did so only to avoid conversation. She tells her aunt that she behaved just like a cuttlefish that squirts out a flood of ink to hide it from attack.
The third main character is Lucy. She pretends that she does not have any care or love for her daughter. Actually, she is a loving mother. She wants that her daughter should have every chance of enjoying life. The writer shows her love for her daughter at the end of the play.
Therefore, we see that the title of the play is quite justified. (293)

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