Who's Afraid of Virgina Wolf: Metaphor Analysis
Fun and Games
The fun and games motif, which is the title of Act I, can be seen not only in the aggressive verbal jousts that Martha and George have with each other, but also in the story Martha tells about the “boxing match” she had with George many years earlier, when George refused to box with her father as part of self-defense training. Martha put on the gloves herself and caught George by surprise with a punch and knocked him down. The incident symbolically represents the battle that is going on between them throughout the play. It also suggests that Martha has the upper hand, which she appears to have until George turns the tables in Act 3, and symbolically knocks her down with his surprise “punch” that kills off their jointly held illusion about their son.
Another symbol of the fun and games motif is the fake gun with which George “shoots” Martha in Act 1. Honey is genuinely terrified that George is about to kill his wife. But instead of a bullet, the gun shoots out a red and yellow parasol, and everyone laughs. This visual incident symbolizes the fact that underlying the aggression between Martha and George is some kind of game—a game that is apparently less scary for the participants than for the onlookers, Nick and Honey, and of course the audience. The gun is also used briefly as a phallic symbol when Martha, keen to take a dig at George and arouse his sexual jealousy, says suggestively to Nick she has no doubt he does not need a “fake Jap gun.”
The imaginary son that George and Martha have constructed for themselves over a period of twenty-one years symbolizes, in its broadest sense, all the illusions people create for themselves in order to avoid the truth of their situations, especially in intimate relationships. Although no explicit explanation is offered, the invention of the symbolic son probably started between George and Martha as a piece of game-playing, designed to overcome their disappointment at the fact that they were unable to have a real, physical child. But over the years, and especially as their marriage deteriorated, it seems that they retreated into this mutually constructed illusory world and lost touch with what was real and true in their lives. The symbol became more important than the reality. The central symbol of the imaginary son, complete with all the details of his appearance and life history that George and Martha relate to Honey and Nick, becomes part of the increasingly problematic relationship between truth and reality in the troubled lives of the two protagonists.