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Numbers in the Air (first draft)

[Scene 1] –Interior, inner city, early twentieth century run-down brick building. Empty except for one patron, a young man whose dirty yet clean shaven face makes it look like he is ambivalent about his appearance. He’s slumped over on a stool, conscious, but barely. The lighting is dim; there is a clock on the back wall with frozen hands. There is also what must used to have been a small wooden bar along the back wall, but it looks empty of alcohol with apparently no one tending it. The young man, Patrick, straightens up and starts to hum vaguely.

Patrick- Ahh, the early afternoon light creeps in through rust covered bars behind ancient stained glass, but it’s not the rich man’s or religious kind. What are these shadows that form the shapes of Argive spears on a broken linoleum floor? Are they symbols? Revelations? Prophecies of imminent violence?

Patrick starts to look around the room slowly at first, but then begins to twirl in circles on his stool. His uncle walks in from behind the bar and leans against it, staring beyond Patrick in a tired, expressionless manner. 

Arnold- It’s your imagination.

Patrick- Everything is imagined Arnie-

Arnold- How about you give me some respect for once or I’ll throw you out of here and send you back to your reptile of a mother.

Patrick feigns getting up and leaving by zipping up his dirty bag.

Patrick- Alright, fine. Kick out your only customer Arnie. Your own flesh and blood!

Patrick laughs to himself. Arnold remains stoic, takes out two shot glasses, and pours a brownish liquid in them from an un-labelled bottle. The two stare at each other for a few seconds.

Arnold- Patrick, do you realize what’s going on out there?

They both simultaneously take shots. Patrick retains his light-hearted humor, but with a genuine, passionate intensity. Arnold is weary, and it’s obvious that the two have had this conversation many times before.

Patrick- I can handle myself on the streets uncle, you know that.

Arnold- No, I mean beyond the streets.

Patrick- What do you know about the outside world? We’ve been disconnected for months.

Arnold- Why do you think there’ve been no travelers through here? We’re cut off, and not just digitally. You have to be more careful Patrick. You hear me? Don’t associate yourself with them anymore.

Patrick- You act like you’re my father or something when we’re practically the same age. Besides, if it wasn’t for them, this place would’ve been burnt to the ground along with most of the other buildings on this block.

Arnold- Your friends can’t protect you forever. The riots might be over, but it’s still dangerous out there.

Patrick- You call those riots? That was revolution, uncle, and if you’re so disillusioned as to believe that we can’t create something better out of it, then what’s the point of going on and living at all anyway?

Arnold shakes his head and pours two more shots. They drink.

Arnold- The same as it ever was. This isn’t a post-anything situation Patrick. The government will be back. We’re just quarantined, and when the time comes everything that you and your friends have built will… Oh, it’s no use.

Patrick- You’re right Arnie. No use in pessimism when the world as you know it has changed irreparably, and for the better.

Arnold- Right. All that Krokodil makes this city such a better place.

Patrick gives Arnold a knowing smirk. 

Patrick- I better get going, let me get a smoke and a shot before I start patrol. When I get to the river I’ll let Bran know you need help with fixing this floor.

The uncle provides his nephew with what he asked for, then sits down and takes out a small, torn book, but looks up right before Patrick exits.

Arnold- Watch out for the fiends.

End of first scene.

Categories
Non Fiction

The Complexities of a Modern Woman: Casting Aside Dramatic Tradition

August Strindberg wrote Miss Julie in the context of his attempt at understanding women as a whole, which was not an easy endeavor, considering his own complicated love life. His critics claim that Strindberg was a misogynist, and his preface to the play would seemingly confirm that theory to first-time readers and staunch feminists. Yet ironically enough the man who belittled the woman would be one of the first dramatists to give her a fully rounded character- instead of the stilted, one-dimensional characters that pervaded melodramas and so-called well made plays that were so prevalent in late 19th century Europe. The title character, Miss Julie, was constructed as a reflection of what Strindberg believed to be the motives and passions of aristocratic women in his period, at least from his own perspective, because he had experienced an affair with a young woman with the same background, making him surmise that her naiveté’ and pompousness was applicable to all.

Strindberg represented his own views on why an aristocratic woman would act so trivial through Jean, when the character expressed his thoughts on Miss Julie being paradoxically snobbish while trying to act like a commoner: “She’s too stuck-up in some ways and not proud enough in others…” (and then goes on explaining how her mother was the same way). The irony in this description is that instead of demeaning her as a person, Jean is in a way justifying her wild actions to his fiancé, Christine, in that he does not write her off as static, but instead exemplifies the wavering characteristics of an aristocratic female. This characterization is in stark contrast to previous representations of women in literature and especially drama, as the female was widely portrayed as motivated by one trait, such as passion, lust, love, etc. -which became redundant as female characters in plays could easily be substituted with one another without any difference because of their shallowness and universal attributes. Another way Strindberg set Miss Julie apart from previous female characters was by using her mother that was wrought with tragedy as a prominent reason for Miss Julie’s mindset and actions.

Miss Julie would ultimately kill herself partly because her mother had taught her to hate men, and quixotically raised her as if she was a male, in order to prove that women could be just as good as them- another irony, but one that is profound in that such a thing was absolutely unheard of back then. The most intriguing aspect of her complex character was shown in the final pages of the play, as Miss Julie was subtly begging Jean to command her to off herself, “Who’s to blame for what has happened? My father, my mother, myself? Myself? I don’t have a self that’s my own. I don’t have a single thought I didn’t get from my father, not an emotion I didn’t get from my mother… What difference does it make who’s to blame? I’m still the one who has to bear the guilt, suffer the consequences-”. Thus, Strindberg, although apparently a misogynist, offered heartfelt sympathy for Miss Julie by explaining the reasons why she felt and acted so wildly while contradicting her aristocratic ideals. She was suffering from the guilt of her mother’s sins in the way that her mother had treated her father (mainly committing arson on his estate), and in the end, she astutely came to the conclusion that it did not matter who was to blame, but that she just did not want to live dealing with her uncontrollable emotions anymore.

Gainor, Ellen J., Stanton B. Garner, Jr., and Martin Puchner. The Nineteenth Century to the Present. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton and, 2009. Print. The Norton Anthology of Drama.

Strindberg, August. Miss Julie. 1888