Analysis Of Play It As It Lays By Joan Didion

2170 Words 9 Pages
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion is a novel that seems to centralize the majority of its language on a single main character. Due to the fact that we are only able to see into the mind of the main character, Maria, it can be argued that this novel only essentially has one character with the rest are just simply filling space. This begs the question, would William Gass argue that Maria is simply a linguistic location in Didion's novel? After all, "a character for [Gass] is any linguistic location in a book toward which a great part of the rest of the text stands as a modifier" (A Debate 28). If we consider the fact that his perfect novel would have just one character in which all of the language flows toward, then we would assume he would appreciate …show more content…
In this novel, the title of the book, Play It As It Lays, is closely linked with Maria's final realization about life. On numerous occasions, there are references to card games or other comments using one or all of the words of the phrase, "play it as it lays." The game being referred to is the game of life and Maria is holding the cards. At the beginning of the novel, Maria is still bewildered about life and says, "I mean, maybe I was holding all the aces, but what was the game?" (Didion 8) The novel as a whole is essentially about Maria, her life's uncertainties, and how she deals with it. The title acts as a metaphor for the book and the language only supports the metaphor. Its meaning changes for us throughout the book as we grow with Maria when "something real was happening: this was, as it were, her life. If she could keep that in mind she would be able to play it through, do the right thing, whatever that meant" (41). Didion doesn't want us to forget this metaphor and she makes sure of that by sprinkling it throughout her text by italicizing "as it was" (147) and "play it through" (54). By coming back to it time and time again allows a greater impact on the reader when she finally ends the novel with a reference to the metaphor. Gardner appreciates these language devices and says that "every metaphor conjures an inexpressible but felt background, ties the imagined to the …show more content…
When BZ comes to her with the pills, he says, "'You're still playing…Some day you'll wake up and you just won't feel like playing anymore'" (Didion 211). Suddenly the tables have turned and Maria's life isn't the one the reader is concerned for anymore. For the first time, our worries are taken off of Maria and placed on BZ. She then becomes in control of herself and her own life. In her final monologue, she says directly to the reader: "I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what 'nothing' means, and keep on playing" (213). This final realization and closure that Maria comes to is that life is going to treat you pretty terribly sometimes, but you've just got to keep playing with the cards you were dealt. This kind of closure is a characteristic of fiction that John Gardner would admire. Although he may not be satisfied completely with the morals in this novel, he would appreciate that the novel was leading up to this realization and that it had direction. Gardner argues

Related Documents