Drama: Symbolism in Tender Offer
Wendy Wasserstein’s comedy Tender Offer provides a good example of how symbolism can work in a play. The one act play is about the cultural decay of the modern world where there is no meaning for any of the human values and the use of symbols provides the playwright with one of the most effective tools. “Symbolism is the systematic use of recurrent symbols or images in a work to create an added level of meaning.” (A Literary Lexicon). This literary device suggests another meaning beyond the literal meaning of an object or action. The recurrent use of an object, sign, or image stands for some meaning that is beyond the surface meaning of the image. The play that tells about the relationship between a father and a daughter touches many of the modern themes. The most obvious characteristic feature of the play is its use of extra ordinary symbols that relate to the main theme of the play. Thus, we find a number of symbols such as ‘tender offer,’ ‘leg warmers,’ ‘a bad itch,’ ‘Tiger,’ and many such. In the confines of short, one act play, the author, with the use of symbols, is successful in dealing with themes of great significance.
Tender Offer is primarily a play of father-daughter relationship. Here, we find the relationship between Paul and Lisa and the delicate matters in their relation. One of the most obvious symbols in the play is that of ‘tender offer.’ “PAUL: I’ll make you a tender offer. That’s when a company publishes in the newspaper that they want to buy another company. And the company that publishes is called the Black Knight because they want to gobble up the poor little company. So the poor little company needs to be rescued. And then a White Knight comes along and makes a bigger and better offer so the shareholders won’t have to tender shares to the Big Black Knight.” (Wendy Wasserstein: Reading Tender Offer).
The father wants to make a tender offer to his daughter and he wants not to own her but wants the daughter to come out of the chains of that haunts her like a Big Black Knight. The powerful symbolism used here shows how effective the author is in the use of symbols for his purpose.
Another example of the great effect created by symbolism is the use of ‘leg warmers.’ It is a symbol that stands for something beyond the ordinary and the apparent. Lisa says that she “can’t go home till I find my leg warmers.” (Wendy Wasserstein) But she is not looking for them; neither does she remember where she left them. She is not definite about where it is or how she will find them, if at all she finds them. In relation to this comes the other symbols sickness, Hodgkin’s disease, and ‘a bad itch on my leg.’ These symbols come as the thirst of a daughter to find a deep relation and solace in the father. Even a ‘dreamcoat’ is meaningless to Lisa and without anyone to regard for the subtle but important things, Lisa feels, “It’s stupid. I was second best at the dance recital, so they gave me this thing. It’s stupid.” (Wendy Wasserstein) These are symbols in series all of which denotes the inner wish of the daughter to find the cares of her father. Once the father is aware of this inner need in his daughter, she says, “my foot doesn’t itch anymore.” (Wendy Wasserstein) And at the recognition from the father, Lisa says, “I think I see my leg warmers.” (Wendy Wasserstein) Thus, the powerful use of these symbols proves the role of symbolism and its effect in literature.
Obviously, there are many other symbols and images that create in the minds of the readers colorful designs of the theme that the author works out through the play. Ultimately, all these work in the best illustration of the modern situation through the symbols and images. The value-free culture of the modern world and the decline in relation of the modern families is, admittedly, the aim of the playwright in Tender Offer and which better tool other than symbolism could help the author in this effort? Therefore, we can safely conclude that Wendy Wasserstein’s one act play proves the power of symbolism as a literary tool and there would be no doubt about the craftsmanship of the playwright, especially with the use of symbolism.
Wendy Wasserstein: Reading. Tender Offer. 7 Dec. 2007 <http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0073124265/322267/wasserstein_reading.html>.
A Literary Lexicon. 7 Dec. 2007 <http://condor.depaul.edu/~dsimpson/awtech/lexicon.html>.
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