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.
Academia Quotes in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Musical beds is the faculty sport around here.
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.
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!