Sweet Bird of Youth: Act I, Discussion

Think about the use of symbolism so far in the play. Please comment on the post with your thoughts on the significance of on one of the following elements and what they might represent :

* Names – Chance, Heavenly, Princess, Alexandra Del Lago (means of the lake)

* Easter Sunday

* Costumes

Chance: white silk pjs

Princess: Black domino mask

* Music – The lamentation

*Birds – title

“soft urgent cries”

hawking seagulls

* Mirrors

“Chance rises, pauses a moment a mirror in the fourth wall to run a comb through his slightly thinning blond hair..”.

“The screen’s a very clear mirror.”

* Monsters: “When monster meets monster, one monster has to give way, AND IT WILL NEVER BE ME.”

17 thoughts on “Sweet Bird of Youth: Act I, Discussion

  1. For me, i think that most of the elements which are written below are linked. They mostly have a link to religion. The names which are heavenly, chance… are not common names and are kind of positive names linked to religion or nature. The fact that the scene takes place on Easter Sunday makes me think about Easter itself. Easter is known for the resurrection of Christ. This mostly shows a new person, a new life. This kind of “Resurrection” is also perceived in the life of the princess as the latter woke up trying to be a whole new different person. The princess wants to be a new person, she kind of “resurrected”

  2. Throughout the play, “The Lament” is sung during the Easter church services. This song is associated with Jesus’s death. In my opinion, it represents the play’s melancholy atmosphere and the tragedies from which Chance and the Princess hope to heal. Also, when the melody occurs, it usually marks a shift in the characters emotional atmosphere. For instance, when the Princess and Chance talk about his unsuccessful acting career, The Lament slowly fades in.

  3. Chance Wayne’s name describes accurately his life, which is based on luck. At the time, it was a somewhat successful way for him to live, but as his life passes, as he ages and loses his beauty and youth, his chances of fame, success, survival, his opportunities, are waning.
    Princess Kosmonopolis is only Chance’s nickname for the actress Alexandra del Lago, yet it is incredibly fitting as she acts like royalty, she does not accept being degraded and condescended to as she is always in charge. “Kosmonopolis” alludes, not only to the word cosmopolitan, reflecting how Princess views herself: as a cultivated and experienced actress, but it is also derived from the greek “polis”, meaning city. (I don’t know how it is relevant but I thought it was interesting.)
    Heavenly Finley’s name is a reference to her purity of character but also to Heaven.

  4. The theme of birds is present in the title as well as in Act I, and to me it is interesting to analyse because a bird can be a symbol of freedom. But if you put that bird in a cage then it is no longer free, and it has only one motivation : to get out of that cage and reach the sky again.
    If Chance is the bird then Heavenly is the sky (heaven) and his condition as a gigolo as well as Boss’ obstinacy to keep him away from his daughter constitute his cage. So here we have a typical story structure with a protagonist (Chance), a goal (Heavenly) and an antagonist (Boss, his reputation and his broken dreams).

  5. I think that this play as a lot of biblical allusions and the fact that the play take play at Easter day is symbolic. Easter day in religion represent hope of the resurection of the christ and i think we can link it to the Princess and Chance’s hope of the return of their beauty and youth. This idea of hope is clearly sees as well in the name of the characters as ‘Chance’ and ‘Heavenly’ wich for me describes for ‘Chance’ hope and opportunities because he still young compare to the Princess and for ‘Heavenly” it describes heaven, the eternal beauty and the innocence that Chance sees in her as his girl back home of his youth.

  6. To me the mirror has a very important place because it shows the characters how they truly look like and that’s important because one of the theme of the book is aging and struggle of time passing by

    • I agree, and i also think it’s a reference to the characters being vain and self absorbed, which you stereo typically would have to be to want to become famous so badly.

  7. The black domino mask:

    The black mask is a small, rounded mask covering only the eyes and the space between them. The fact that It covers the eyes means that Princess wants to hide her identity by hiding her facial features. Probably she wants to hide her facial features since she wants to hide her identity as Alexandra del Lago, (in the play the reader discovers that she is a criminal, this could be also a reason why she hides her identity). Also it would be because she wants to hide her age by hiding her wrinkles of her eyes. The name domino mask derives from the Latin “dominus”, meaning “Lord” or “master”. In the play Act 1 the reader can see that Princess is the master her relationship with Chance, since she is wealthy and famous. In the play Princess orders Chance to do everything she wants, she even uses insults to address him. There is a painting named “La Femme au masque”, (1885), of Gervex, where there is a naked woman wearing a black domino mask. This could give a sexual and erotic side to this symbol.

    • good analysis on the mask Daniela. I agree on what you said about the mask on hidding her wrinkles. this may also have a link with the book which is about youth and aging

  8. Their names all represent their characters specifically, Heavenly and her angelical, pure self; Chance relying on luck and the chances he gets throughout his journey; Princess aka Alexandra del Lago, mirrors her personality and how she expects to be treated.

    • I didn’t look at the names of the characters the way you did but it is actually true when you think about it, it characterizes the characters in a way.

  9. In the book sweet bird of Youth William names his characters wisely to symbolize their roles and importance in the book. Indeed Heavenly, for example is sign of pureness and good, which suits her well as she is mostly seen like an angel that can do no bad by her father and Chance. This is especially seen the first time we meet Boss and learn why he hates Chance Wayne so much as he took his daughter’s innocence away “when she was just fifteen”. Secondly Lucy is constantly called Miss Lucy in the story to show how young and unmarried she is: this represents in some way her youth. Thirdly the protagonist is named Chance Wayne to simply symbolize the fact that he’s losing his luck, as things seem to get more complicated for him as time passes by.
    Fourthly, makes sure the story takes place on Easter Sunday, because this day represents the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indeed resurrection is something that most characters highly want: Princess for example is waiting for the resurrection of her career while Chance simply wants to bring his youth back to life.
    Finally the lament, being a song played during Easter symbolizes resurrection, and is mostly played during sad moments in the when Princess and Chance talk about their youth and how it stays dead despite the numerous things they did to bring it back to life

    • I would have said that Heavenly isn’t pure anymore because has you go deeper in your analysis, you find that no one (especially Chance Wayne) is defined by their name anymore. But apart from that, I like what you have found and I fully support you for the rest !!!

  10. In the act one, we find three characters who are looking for youth. One wants fame she had in her youth (Princess),the other wants love, the one he tasted in is youth, (Chance) and the last one wish she could have lived with her love rather than being prevented by her father to do so.
    Alexandra del Lago (princess) is obsessed by her appearance, her use of the mirror partially shows it, and she sees through Chance, a way to regain her youth. During the whole act, she behaves as a princess, commanding Chance as if he was a servant even though she is a fallen princess.
    Chance wants to find Heavenly, his first love, and this despite Boss’ anger. Chance’s name is really interesting because it defines fully his behavior. We learn later that he had a lot of occasions (chances) to go far, but he messed up many times, leading him to his situation in the play (where he still have chances to choose widely).
    Heavenly, Chance’s first love, is a character with a name heavy in significance. Her name close to heaven should show a women pure and innocent, an idea her father (Boss) wants to keep true. However, we learn that she had lost her virginity with Chance, making her sick, and erasing by the same occasion the only chance Chance could have had to stay with her. Heavenly, symbol of purity, has lost her’s as every character aren’t anymore defined by their names.

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