How I Learned to Drive


Paula Vogel

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Themes and Colors
Gender and Misogyny Theme Icon
Family and Abuse Theme Icon
Memory and Trauma Theme Icon
Sexuality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in How I Learned to Drive, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Gender and Misogyny

How I Learned to Drive takes an uncompromising look at the way casual misogyny and gender stereotyping affect women, especially the young. From an early age, Li’l Bit, the play’s protagonist, is barraged with messages about women’s role in society: that they must behave a certain way and get used to being treated as sexual objects by men. She has to navigate these attitudes while at the same time dealing with the psychological pressure…

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Family and Abuse

How I Learned to Drive is a harrowing study in family dynamics. On the one hand, it shows the role that family plays as a support network: Li’l Bit views Uncle Peck as a replacement for her absent father, and she looks to her mother and grandmother for answers to her questions about sex and growing up. But Uncle Peck is first and foremost her abuser, and Li’l Bit’s discussions with her family don’t seem…

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Memory and Trauma

How I Learned to Drive explores the effects of trauma on memory and, indeed, of memory on trauma. Told retrospectively from the viewpoint of Li’l Bit, who was sexually exploited in her adolescence by Uncle Peck, the play presents the way trauma inhabits the memory of its principal character. In fact, the play as a whole can be taken as an argument against the repression of traumatic memories; by placing her experiences out…

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The play explores the significant impact that sex and sexuality have on individuals’ lives, highlighting the extent to which they exert control on people’s psychology. Vogel’s approach is wide-ranging, showing the audience, for example, the important difference between physical and psychological maturity, while also investigating society’s sexual limits and transgressions. This asks the audience to examine the way sex and sexuality are conceptualized, both in the play’s 1960s setting and in the present day, particularly…

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