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A Review of Plot
To what extent does "Oleanna" endorse or challenge Traditional Structures of Power?
The traditional structure of power between man and woman is determined by their role in the society. The role of a man or a woman is characterized with the historical as well as social features. However, such gender base role determines the power that man or woman can use over or against each other. For centuries, woman role in a society in predetermined as more inferior than a man not only physically, emotionally or mentally but also in the use of power. This struggle for power might start from the 18th century when woman's rights were recognized as lawfully (Mencken, 1927). Thus traditional structure of power always remained unconquerable for many due to its root in the history. Similarly, the play "Oleanna" represents a type of the battle of two sexes and represents story of two characters. The story is about the conflict between male and female mount to a primitive struggle for power and create the dynamics Oleanna. It is two characters play by David Mamet which portrayed story of two individual a man and a woman in different position and determine to fight for their position. The main plot of the play revolves around the struggle for power between university professor and his female student. Different critics have identified the plot of the play differently as it culminates communication gap between characters, frustration in female student and hidden meanings in words of professor for her. The story of the play is an imposing story of power and manipulation with the underlying truth of sexual tension between characters which later becomes a motivation force for both of them to act in especial manner in the play.
Sex and power has in depth relationship with each other and long been using as expression of power over other sex (Foucault, 1990). Although sexual act is defined as source of physical pleasure, it can have different sexual demonstration. The sexual repression includes restrains from unspoken words and gestures also. Sexual repression presents in all societies as fundamental ethics but still against sexual repression there are illegitimated action created within societies. Sex is an important element here to mention as it is used as motivation force to gain power. Man only thinks to have sexual relationship with the student offers academic favors in return; student on the other hand, uses the motive to show superiority over him.
The plot of the story through the female character gives a challenge to the traditional structure of power in which women are considered as stupid or idiot creature while men assume themselves as wisest and brightest above all women. Moreover, on the base of the superiority they think that they have right to use and exploit women. The plot of the play describes the female character as rebellious and she goes against the men's power of controlling women. She challenges men who think that they can use women for their own interest being dishonest with their profession and being manipulative. Professor is a male chauvinist who offers academic favor and tries to manipulate her. This plot does not only address to male superiority over female but also deals with the rights of women in the same regard. The plot is composed of inspirational ideas for those who think that women can be abused because in this play female character not only takes revenge of her disgrace that professor did to her in private but also showed sense of feminine power against traditional structure of power. The rights of women in traditional structure of power is diminished and based on bias and force position. Since sexual harassment is considered as such disgraceful criminal act which turns out to be worse when a teacher is accused of it, to show the power against men, female character uses the sexual harassment as the power to use against him. She raised the voice against the right of women and female students by rejecting the power of her professor. On the other hand, male professor assumes her compliant as irrational and blinding emotions and a taste for vengeance. This arrogant attitude shows a systemic treatment of women as inferior to men, as though they have lick of logic and are driven only by instinct. The same justification has been given for suppression of women's right and power by men. This play challenges in hostile way to the patronizing manner of men towards women.
The violence climax of the play, on the other hand, confirms the traditional mindset of many centuries that men are born to dominate over women; it further supports to the idea that if a women tries to balance this power between both sexes she will have suffer like Carol (Thripp, 2008). Other mindsets of the critics have criticized the use of power by Carol and commented that it is a portrait of exploitation and abuse of power (Silversein, 1995). It must be clear in this regard that Oleanna is not simply about the inflammatory subject of sexual harassment but rather to a larger extend. The structure and development of story more emphasizes on the tragedy with the structure of power and extreme reaction against the demonstration of this power. Sexual harassment is used as a device of portraying other important element of plot. The tragedy with Oleanna is similar to other tragic incidents but in the Oleanna, struggle of power is between a teacher and a student at academe which is more important part of Oleanna case. Mamet, author of this play, explains that both characters of the play were lock into struggle of power which depicts a cultural influence on these individuals. This struggle for power ends with the downfall of both characters which shows the tragedy when a person goes against the predefined system, both parties have to suffer as it happened in the play. However, the play is about tragedy about power yet it is worth mentioning here that there was a language or communication trouble between these two people and they both have a lot to say to each other. With the growing trouble in communication, there was legitimate affection between them for each other but much careful for their position and interest. Their circumstantial struggle for power leads them towards an inevitable tragic end.
At most of the place, Oleanna is publicized as "A controversial play with an anti-feminist message",
Christine Macleod describes in "The Politics of Gender, Language and Hierarchy" (1995) that play Oleanna is characterized by opposition and aggression towards agenda of contemporary feminine power. This statement is further supported with the end of the play that closes on the explosive physical assault on the offending female character and shows violence of man for revenge. Furthermore, the violence climax of the play is a warning for rigid and stern woman about the sexual harassment propaganda. Through the closing of the play a manipulative message is delivered that demands the man for action (as described a clarion call) to basic instinct of a man. According to many critics, it is a woman who is obsessed with her failures and tries to punish a man because she could not manipulate him to give her good grades. Initially play is associated with distorted communication from feminism. She tried to have power over her teacher using verbal power at first. Since she could not express herself freely she decides to punish the teacher for that.