Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Imperfect Marriage Theme Analysis

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.
Imperfect Marriage Theme Icon

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf paints a harsh portrait of marriage as a vehicle for conflict, arguments, and disappointment. George and Martha, though named after the first presidential couple of the United States, are a model of dysfunction, an undermining of the idea of the happy couple. They invite Nick and Honey to their house to serve as an audience for their mutual disdain and bickering. Though Nick and Honey are initially presented as sane and functional, particularly in contrast to their counterparts, their marriage is quickly revealed to be similarly dysfunctional

The play depicts the unraveling of the two marriages as the appearances that the characters assume in public are sullied with the drunken revelations of their private thoughts and histories. At the end of the night of debauchery, however, Honey and Nick go home together and George and Martha remain, each to resume their married lives. The suggestion is that all marriages are marked with some conflict and turmoil, but that, when all is said and done, they continue on. Given that the play premiered in the early sixties, it can be read as a reaction to the fifties, when unrealistic images and advertisements of the ‘perfect American family’ and home life abounded.

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Imperfect Marriage ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Imperfect Marriage appears in each act of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Imperfect Marriage 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 Imperfect Marriage.
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:
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Musical beds is the faculty sport around here.

Related Characters: George (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Act 2 Quotes

It was a hysterical pregnancy. She blew up, and then she went down.

Related Characters: Nick (speaker), Honey
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
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Just before we got married, I developed…appendicitis…or everybody thought it was appendicitis…

Related Characters: Honey (speaker), Nick
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:
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Our son ran away from home all the time because Martha here used to corner him.

Related Characters: George (speaker), Martha
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:
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You told them! OOOOHHHH! OH, no, no, no, no! You couldn’t have told them…

Related Characters: Honey (speaker), Martha, George, Nick
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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I’m loud, and I’m vulgar, and I wear the pants in this house because somebody’s got to, but I am not a monster. I am not.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker)
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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George who is out somewhere there in the dark…George who is good to me, and whom I revile; who understands me, and whom I push off.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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I FORGET! Sometimes…sometimes when it’s night, when it’s late, and…and everybody else is…talking…I forget and I…want to mention him…but I…HOLD ON…I hold on…but I’ve wanted to…so often…oh, George, you’ve pushed it…there was no need….there was not need for this. I mentioned him…all right…but you didn’t have to push it over the EDGE. You didn’t have to…kill him.

Related Characters: Martha (speaker), George
Related Symbols: Babies
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
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