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How the Greek Chorus Defines Society in How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel

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How the Greek Chorus Defines Society in How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel

Do you know what it feels like to only be defined by your body? In Paula Vogel’s disturbing play, How I Learned to Drive, sensitive social topics such as objectifying females and childhood sexual abuse are exemplified through the main character, Li’l Bit. With the ongoing inappropriate relationship between Li’l Bit and her uncle, Uncle Peck, readers have an inside look at the many challenges and difficulties that most young children should never have to face. Not only does Li’l Bit have a troubling relationship with her uncle, but also one with the other members of her family as well. A Greek chorus portrays the other members of her family, who also continue to sexualize Li’l Bit with no regards for her feelings or how this affects her personal life. Vogel uses the Greek chorus as a theatrical device to illustrate the complexities of Li’l Bit’s social and family relationships, which in turn suggests that she is developing in a society that constantly defines itself through sexuality.

The first appearance of the Greek chorus presents us with the foundation of how Li'l Bit has grown up in a very sexualized and complex household. We discover that all of Li’l Bit’s family members including her and Uncle Peck’s nicknames are a reference to their genitalia. For example, cousin Bobby is nicknamed “B.B.” and her mother as “the titless wonder” (Vogel 113). These names signify how the family has grown up defined by sex and sexual content. It’s almost as if they are comfortable and accepting of these names. The only character that is uncomfortable with this inappropriate language is Li’l Bit, and it takes her an immense amount of strength and courage to stand up to her family when the conversation’s topic is directly about her and her body. This household is so accustomed to this lifestyle where there are no boundaries or limitations to what they say to each other. As Li’l bit grows up in this household that does not hold back on conversations about sexual content, she has to constantly learn to manage and cope with her emotions and discover who she is and where she belongs within society.

 Furthermore, almost every conversation Li’l Bit has with her family is centred on sex or sexuality. They discuss topics such as their personal sexual experiences, and most commonly, Li’l Bit’s physical appearance at typical family dinners. Vogel uses the Greek chorus to set the scene and then frame how the conversation follows. In the conversations, the chorus continuously cuts off and interjects one another after every sentence. Each family member gets a jab in at Li’l Bit, which always targets her body and specifically her breasts. All of the constant comments about Li’l Bit’s bust cause her to finally burst at her family where she exclaims, “I’d like some privacy, that’s all. Okay? Some goddamn privacy” (Vogel 115). This reveals how difficult it is for Li’l Bit to grow up in a household that has no concern for her personal security and comfort. All of the inappropriate statements finally result in Li’l Bit being resentful and irritated with her family. Although her family members are aware that Li’l bit is self conscious and embarrassed of her body, they still continue to make similar remarks and even judgements based on her previous response, such as her Grandfather uttering, “Well, she’d better stop beings so sensitive. ‘Cause five minutes before Li’l Bit turns the corner, her tits turn first” (Vogel 115). This comment made by her grandfather after Li’l Bit already made a scene, shows us that no matter how open Li’l Bit is about hating being characterized by her breasts, her family members will not stop making blunt and impolite remarks about her. By using a Greek chorus to represent her family members such as her Grandfather, it is very clear that the chorus emphasize the realities of how Li’l Bit is growing up in household that is degrading and objectifying her body.


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