Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

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Alcohol Symbol Icon
Alcohol is consumed throughout the play, and the narrative is often punctuated by character’s glasses being refilled. The characters’ lips are loosened as they drink more and more, until Honey is on the bathroom floor and George and Martha grow increasingly harsh towards one another and say ever crueler and more revealing things. Alcohol serves to strip away the false fronts that the characters might otherwise use to mask their dysfunctions.

Alcohol Quotes in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

The Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf quotes below all refer to the symbol of Alcohol. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Imperfect Marriage  Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf published in 1983.
Act 1 Quotes

Ha, ha, ha, HA! Make the kids a drink, George. What do you want, kids? What do you want to drink, hunh?

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George , Nick , Honey
Related Symbols: Babies, Alcohol
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

Nick and Honey have arrived at George and Martha's home and Martha––notably drunk herself––instructs her husband to make their guests a drink. Her overfamiliar tone and use of the word "kids" makes her sound like a mother offering her children a drink; the fact that the drinks in question are alcoholic, and that Martha herself is already very drunk, adds a disturbing twist to her question. Throughout the play, the characters reference children and recreate family dynamics, highlighting the conspicuous absence of children in the lives of both couples. 

This passage also reveals Martha's forceful personality and manipulation of those around her, and particularly of George. Rather than politely asking or suggesting that George make the drinks, Martha aggressively demands that he does so. This in turn highlights the more passive, weaker role George takes in their marriage. The hysterical laughter that precedes this demand further emphasizes Martha's volatile and intimidating character. The characters in the play frequently laugh, though this laughter almost always contains distinct undertones of hostility, fear, or hysteria; this illustrates the theme that beneath social pleasantries lie far more menacing dynamics.   


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Act 3 Quotes

I cry all the time too, Daddy. I cry allllll the time; but deep inside, so no one can see me. I cry all the time. And George cries all the time, too.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Related Symbols: Babies, Alcohol
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

At the beginning Act 3, Martha is alone onstage, drunkenly talking to herself and conducting imaginary conversations with George and her father. She confesses to her father that she and George both "cry all the time," but says that she cries "deep inside, so no one can see me." This passage furthers the revelation of a more vulnerable side of Martha. Her confession "I cry all the time too, Daddy" makes her sound like a young child. This emphasizes the notion that Martha has not been able to move beyond the position of a child, partly because she has not had any children herself. The affectionate term "Daddy," meanwhile, highlights her closeness and loyalty to her father, an attachment that seems to come at the expensive of her relationship with George. 

This passage also evokes the themes of appearances and secrecy. Although Martha is brash on the surface, here we realize that internally she feels weak and sad. Her statement that she cries "deep inside" shows that Martha represses her feelings beneath a confident, careless exterior. Although George and Martha exhibit disdain for the social codes that require people to mask their true feelings beneath civility, this scene reveals that they are equally guilty of suppressing their emotions—they just do so under a cloak of flamboyant vulgarity rather than restrained politeness. 

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Alcohol Symbol Timeline in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

The timeline below shows where the symbol Alcohol appears in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Imperfect Marriage  Theme Icon
Academia Theme Icon
Children and Childishness Theme Icon
Martha orders George to make her a drink and informs him that they have guests coming over, but can’t remember their guests’ names.... (full context)
Imperfect Marriage  Theme Icon
Appearance, Secrecy, and Truth-Telling Theme Icon
Ambition, Success, and Failure  Theme Icon
George prepares drinks for the crew—brandy for Honey, bourbon for Nick, and (jokingly) rubbing alcohol for Martha. George... (full context)
Imperfect Marriage  Theme Icon
Ambition, Success, and Failure  Theme Icon
Children and Childishness Theme Icon
...in other ways as well, like a white mouse. He leaves to get some more alcohol. Martha begins to explain to Honey and Nick why her husband so hates her father,... (full context)