Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf


Edward Albee

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf makes teaching easy.
Themes and Colors
Imperfect Marriage Theme Icon
Academia Theme Icon
Appearance, Secrecy, and Truth-Telling Theme Icon
Ambition, Success, and Failure Theme Icon
Children and Childishness Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Academia Theme Icon

The play takes place “on the campus of a small New England college,” George and Nick are both professors, and Martha’s father is the president of the college. This academic setting influences and taints the narrative in various ways at various points throughout the play. It results in specific power dynamics, tensions, and jealousies among the characters—Martha is attracted to Nick, and George is threatened by him, because of his academic accomplishments; Martha’s father bears the key to George’s future success or failure, and thus defines the terms of their marriage; George and Nick’s academic disciplines inform their modes of conversation and their argument about genetic biology.

The academic setting also contributes particular significance to the genders of the characters—the characters who are employed by the college and whose successes are examined, George, Nick, and Martha’s father, are all men. The women in the play, Martha and Honey, are only affiliated with the college through their familial relations. Honey plays an exaggerated version of the university wife, in her timidity and deference to her husband. The play examines the tricky intersection and separation in the academy, between professional and personal life, and public and private life. It also explores the limitations of academic intelligence and professional ambition in creating a happy life.

Related Themes from Other Texts
Compare and contrast themes from other texts to this theme…

Academia ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Academia appears in each act of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
How often theme appears:
act length:
Get the entire Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf LitChart as a printable PDF.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf PDF

Academia Quotes in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Below you will find the important quotes in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf related to the theme of Academia.
Act 1 Quotes

Musical beds is the faculty sport around here.

Related Characters: George (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

Do you believe that people learn nothing from history? Not that there is nothing to learn, mind you, but that people learn nothing? I am in the History Department.

Related Characters: George (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

He was going to be groomed. He’d take over someday…until [Daddy] watched for a couple of years and started thinking maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all…that maybe Georgie boy didn’t have the stuff…that he didn’t have it in him!

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis: