Athol Fugard : the portrayal of some of his women characters / Suzanne Vermaak
AbstractThe fact that women characters play a central role in most of the dramas of Athol Fugard urged this dissertation. Due to its limited scope, however, not all women characters could be explored, therefore a line was drawn from two of Fugard's earlier plays, People are Living There and Hello and Goodbye, through to The Road to Mecca and finally to one of the later plays, A Place with the Pigs, in an attempt to find some form of development in the women characters portrayed in these plays. These women characters are explored against a semiotic background in order to emphasize that they are not merely vehicles of (dramatic) communication, but also reflect social, ideological, institutional and aesthetic norms. Section A, therefore, explores the relationship between dramatic text and performance text. The points of view of some traditional critics and some semioticians are compared and a conclusion reached. Whereas the dramatic text consists of a network of verbal signs which appear in the form of written words involving linguistic, literary and cultural codes, the performance consists of many (more) types of signs which not only include words, but also body language, costumes, sets, lights and props. This comparison then automatically leads to a study of the dramatis personae in a play, and the relationships which are established with both the reader of the play and the spectator of the performance. This interaction also involves the actors of the characters themselves. Finally, fictional and physical time as well as dramatic space are explored, as this is the background against which the characters develop. In the dramatic as well as the performance text, the characters express themselves through language which in tum is inseparable from the didascalies which help the reader to interpret mood, background, feelings and character traits. They also enable the actor to portray the role which is then performed before an audience who will gain insight into the character. In Section B, four of Fugard's plays in which women characters dominate the action are analysed against the theoretical background. The Section starts with the coarse and unrefined characters of Milly and Hester in People are Living There and Hello and Goodbye respectively, who come from poor backgrounds and live in squalid surroundings, but who assert themselves forcefully in that they triumph over their circumstances. They are not typical of the times in which they live in that they are not male-dominated and subservient housewives. From them, Fugard's writing progresses towards The Road to Mecca, in which Miss Helen and Elsa are more refined and emancipated characters, yet with inner struggles that need resolving. The play also explores Miss Helen's struggle as an artist to remain creative. In the last play, A Place with the Pigs, Praskovya is initially portrayed as a simple woman cast in the role of a traditional housewife supporting her husband, but her firm belief in religion, and consequently what is right and what is wrong, gives her the strength to stand up for her rights. She asserts herself very strongly and in the process helps her husband to face reality and the consequences of his actions. Fugard's women characters, it is maintained by way of conclusion, do not conform to the expectations of others. According to the existentialist tradition of Sartre and Camus, they avoid the loss of their true self by living according to their own vision of the truth. To do so is to risk conflict with others, but not to do so, is to "lapse into something akin to spiritual death" (Bruwer, 1984:47).
Thesis (MA (English)) PU vir CHO, 1995.