How I Learned to Drive

Radio Symbol Icon

Radio, as Li’l Bit jokes in a driving lesson with Uncle Peck, is the most important part of the car. Of course, she doesn’t mean this literally, but for her radio represents an element of personal choice in a world in which much of that choice has been stripped away. Using the radio, she can play the music that best speaks to her and most reflects who she is at different stages in life. But the actual act of tuning the radio also echoes the way Li’l Bit’s memories function: they come at her thick and fast, like radio stations do when turning the dial. This is gestured to clearly in the play’s closing scene, when Li’l Bit adjusts her radio before driving away. For a moment, the radio plays back some of the play’s previous lines—things that people have said that affected her negatively at the time—before settling on the music that she wants to listen to. This act, then, shows the way Li’l Bit has chosen not to pretend that her traumatic memories do not exist, but to choose to focus elsewhere—on the future.

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Radio Symbol Timeline in How I Learned to Drive

The timeline below shows where the symbol Radio appears in How I Learned to Drive. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
How I Learned to Drive
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
The choruses’ song fades into the same song playing on the radio in Peck’s car, in which he sits with Li’l Bit. It is 1967. As Peck... (full context)
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
...is to “adjust,” to which she quips “my bra strap?” She tries to tune the radio, saying it’s the most important part of the car; he switches it off and insists... (full context)
Sexuality Theme Icon
Li’l Bit then puts forward another metaphor for her breasts: “maybe someone’s implanted radio transmitters in my chest … they’re sending out these signals to men who get mesmerized,... (full context)
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
Getting into the car, Li’l Bit checks “the most important control on the dashboard—the radio.” As she tries to find the station, the female, male, and teenage choruses speak back... (full context)