Review of the play Oleanna

  Oleanna

Whether Oleanna is a misogynistic play, can be argued either way.  It depends on which point of view one sees it from.  The play portrays Carol, a woman, as a manipulative character lacking any positive qualities.  She is portrayed as a feminist that is out to get her “sexist” teacher, John.  However, John is no angel. He misses his power as a teacher and under minds her.  Although it seems that Carol is solely responsible for John’s demise, he too played a part in it.  Carol sets him up by putting him in an awkward situation where he is most certain to fail.  She succeeds by manipulating the facts and eventually driving him to madness. 

             It is clear that Carol is failing the course because she is incapable. However, Carol feels that it is not because she is a bad student, but because John is a bad teacher.  She goes to his office to tell him that she couldn’t afford to fail and that she has tried everything to try to understand but she still can’t. John understands her problem and offers to give her an “A” for the term if she stops by his office more often and talk about what she doesn’t understand. Carol asks “why would you do this for me” and he replies “because I like you”. Carol doesn’t understand why he likes her and John tells her that he believes that “perhaps we’re similar”.  This is where John’s demise starts unraveling.  

            Although Carol is mostly responsible for what happens to John, he too made certain mistakes. John abused his power as a teacher. He was even going to break the rules for Carol by giving her A when she didn’t deserve one. He under minded her by using his large vocabulary that he knew that she wouldn’t understand. He made Carol feel dumb. John would talk of schooling as hazing and this somewhat angered Carol because she worked hard to get into the University.  He would also cut Carol off whenever she tried to speak. This angered Carol and caused her to want revenge. Carol tells John “You. Do. Not. Have. The. Power. Did you misuse it? Someone did”.

            She puts him in this situation where he was almost certain to make a mistake.  However, the mistake John makes is not the same mistake Carol accuses him of.   It is true that John misuses his power, but he has done very little wrong. All John is guilty of is making certain gender-based remarks.  They go as far as calling her “dear”, and saying “Don’t you look fetching.”  Carol has twisted his actions and remarks into accusations of sexual harassment.  Whether or not John is guilty of anything, it certainly is not rape. 

            At this point, John has lost his tenure over a lie.  Carol twisted his actions and remarks into attempted rape.  He tells her to leave, but before Carol leaves John’s office, she says to him, “Don’t call your wife baby”. This outraged John. Carol has no right to interfere with his conversation with his wife. Carol took everything away from John. His job, his house, his power and now she’s telling him what he can say. This disturbs John so much that the only power he has over Carol is physical force. He starts to beat Carol and after he lets out all of his aggression he knows that there is no way out of the situation he has created.  Perhaps John realizes that if he is going to lose his job because of a lie, he might as well make it true.

            Oleanna shows how easy it is for a woman to twist the truth, especially when it is her word against a man’s.  Through certain mistakes made by John, Carol is able to manipulate the mistakes into big lies.  Although the play may appear to be misogynistic, John too is somewhat responsible for his demise.  Still, he did not deserve what happened to him.

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