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Lips Together, Teeth Apart Essay

1810 words - 8 pages

All relationships go through both good and bad times. Some last through the ages, while others quickly fall into nothing. In Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” the heart of this haunting play is a dramatically incisive portrait of two married couples—the Truman’s and the Haddocks. Uncomfortable with themselves and each other, they are forced to spend a Fourth of July weekend at the Fire Island house that the brother of one of the women left his sister when he died of AIDS. Though the house is beautiful, it is as empty as their lives and marriages have become, a symbol of their failed hopes, their rage, their fears, and of the capricious nature of death. The theme of love and death in relationships is quickly developed, as well as an overwhelming fear of homophobia. The two couples McNally brings to life are both going through rough patches in their marriages. While Chloe and John are fighting through John’s esophagus cancer, Sally and Sam are expecting and fearful that this time it will be another miscarriage. Showing how society has struck fear into the couples about AIDS. While everyone except John is worried about catching “AIDS,” the play begins to unveil troubled marriages as well as superficial values and prejudices.
The conflict between love and death is set quickly and fully in both relationships. There are three very important symbols introduced that we are taught from a very young age. The first symbol is the gold band worn on the left hand, on the third finger. This is a widely known symbol for marriage, a bond we are taught to believe is always and forever. While that might not be the case anymore, at one point in time that gold band meant more than a piece of paper with names on it. The ring represents the promise to be loving forever, caring forever. Does one really need a ring to make these feelings seem real? With this symbol comes a waterfall of problems. Both couples love each other, yet both couple face problems threatening to put an end to their marriages. These problems seen throughout the play make the emotional lives of the characters more vibrant. When Sally and John have their brief affair, which both spouses are aware of, the first problem of unfaithfulness becomes on display. As the day goes on, the tensions generated by this situation grow more acute, culminating in a physical confrontation between Sam and John.
The second symbol is the swimming pool introduced at the beginning a dominant visual element of the plays setting. A pool represents a wide verity of objectives, socialization, pleasure, amusement. However, McNally chooses to showcase a different view of the pool. For instance the characters are reluctant to enter it. In fact they shun the idea of it, enforced by the comments of the characters. "I'm sorry, but I'm very sensitive about pools," Sam says. "Our mother was very big on polio. . . . Grow up like that and you view a pool or a public toilet seat as a natural enemy." The pool...

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