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Political Correctness In Oleanna

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Political Correctness in Oleanna

After reading or watching David Mamet's Oleanna, the reader or viewer more than likely asks him or herself about the genuineness of Carol's actions; is she genuinely confused and frustrated, and actually seeks help from her professor, or is it that she wants to manipulate John and be the cause of his demise. The fashion in which the play was written typically makes viewers ally with John, and despise Carol, because this is the way Mamet wants his audience to feel. Although Mamet's play is almost completely lacking symbolism, it is commonly believed that Carol represents the American political correctness movement, and in a negative fashion. Mamet wants his audience to witness how frustrating political correctness can be, and because of it, the situation of the play may actually be possible in today's society, and could lead to the end of a person's career, or even his or her life.

Although a complete shift of power occurs throughout the span of three acts, John is really the only character who is greatly affected by this change. Carol appears to change drastically as well, but in fact, her position changes only slightly; it is only in comparison to John's situation where this slight change appears much greater. While Carol gains nearly nothing from this whole situation, while John loses his career, twenty years of work, his home and his family, simply as a result of Carol's selfish actions. In the first act, John is well dressed and controls the situation, displaying his power as a professor over a student. He interrupts her often, and frequently attempts to avoid the situation and tries to finalize the purchase of his new home. He is also very close to having his own group, the Tenure Committee. Carol, on the other hand, is dressed rather sloppily, very confused and frustrated and has no group like John; she is all alone. She does not seem to understand why she is doing so poorly after having done everything her professor had instructed her to do, including buying his book and reading it.

At the beginning of the second act, the viewer first sees John wearing a nice suit, which leads the viewer to believe that he has obtained his promotion from the Tenure Committee. A few minutes later, however, we learn that this is not the case, and it has been denied because of accusations made by Carol. In this act, neither John nor Carol have real control of the situation, it goes back and forth between them. In this act, John has lost his group, and Carol has gained one. Carol becomes more assertive, as she begins to realize that she is gaining control of the situation, and John, noticing that he is losing power, attempts to change her mind to save his career and get the accusations dismissed. Carol is dressed better than in the previous act, which displays her advancement in society.

In the third act, the total shift of power is apparent. John now has no group at all, nor does he have a home, job or family. He no longer holds any power or control of the situation, and now he is the one who is dressed sloppily and is confused and frustrated. Carol, on the other hand, has complete control of the situation, is dressed nicely, and has her own group. In this act, John is being lectured by her, when in the first act this situation was flipped; now, he is the one who does not understand and begs for help. Finally, Carol has pushed him to his breaking point, where he snaps and physically abuses Carol, which is where the play concludes. At the end, Carol is perhaps only a little more well off than she was in the beginning; she did not particularly benefit from the situation in any way. John, on the other hand, has had his life destroyed, and really, for no reason if nobody has benefited.

Communication and interruption are two of the most important themes of the play. Throughout the play, John and Carol are never able to effectively communicate with each other, and often are interrupted by the other. This displays the lack of concern that each character has towards the other. Not only does each character interrupt the other with a new idea contrary to the last, but John's telephone calls, which are the only contact to the outside world and also makes clear that John has a life outside of the office, also frequently interrupts

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