Theme Of Play It As It Lays

Good Essays
Don’t Worry, This Won’t Hurt. Oh, Wait. There’s a Snake.

In 1970 American author Joan Didion wrote a novel that she titled Play It as It Lays. The novel revolves around Maria, a failing Hollywood actress and the downfall of her life. Didion wrote the book in first person and close third person, giving the reader a personal and impersonal view of Maria’s life. In the novel, Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion, Didion uses both imagery and symbolic repetition of snakes in order to prove that everyone must endure their own inevitable tragedies in life, specifically in relation to death or great suffering. The first time Didion makes a reference to the snake is on the very first page. The first reference, “Why should a coral snake need two glands
…show more content…
However, after her divorce and forced abortion, her life took a turn for the worst that left her in a constant state of depression. Her ex-husband, Carter, was one of the many people who tried to get her back to living a happier life. One day he asked her to come out and watch him film, instead she chose to stay indoors and “studied the deputy sheriff’s framed photographs of highway accidents, imagined the moment of impact, tasted blood in her own dry mouth and searched the grain of the photographs with a magnifying glass for details not immediately apparent, the false teeth she knew must be on the pavement, the rattlesnake she suspected on the embankment.” Even when looking at deaths that were caused by cars and poor driving decisions, Maria still suspected there to be a snake on the scene. This proves Maria’s fixed association with snakes and death. It does not specify that she found a snake or two in the pictures, it says that she actively looked for them in the multiple photographs that she had. Where most people saw the cars being the reason people died or got hurt, Maria assumes that snakes played a role in their death. This strengthens the emphasis Didion places on Maria’s depressed mind that has a fascination for snakes and their ever common appearance in situations revolving around death and …show more content…
As a child, one of the only two lessons she claims to have learned from her father was that any time you turned over a stone, you were likely to find a rattlesnake. Due to the quality of her life, she made the connection of snakes to be the necessary evils in situations to mean death and suffering. This connection led to the recurring snake motif throughout the novel, Play It as It Lays, by Joan Didion. Snakes appear multiple times throughout the novel as well as the cover, on which it is the focal point. The use of this motif is important to the emphasis on non-explicitly stated moments in Maria’s life in which she deems them to be the worst of both her life and the world around

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    In the story, the washerwoman Delia is afraid of snakes and her devious husband Sykes knows this very well. With knowing this information Sykes conceives a plan to try to get Delia out of the house. For his first attempt he tricks delia into thinking a whip was a snake and scares the heebie jeebies out of her. When he realizes that the fright act was not enough to get Delia out of the house he catches a rattlesnake and brings it into the home. Delia being afraid of snakes she begs Sykes to kill it as soon as she sees it.…

    • 742 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    One day, she goes out to a drug dealer to buy arsenic and doesn’t explain why she needs the drug. When she died at age 74, the townspeople pry open an upstairs room to find her future husband, Homer Barron, laying out on the bed decaying. Everyone was deceived that Emily was just a suicidal lady who went through hardships, but she was actually insane. The “Story of an Hour” portrays a similar theme by showing how looks are deceiving. Mrs. Mallard is informed that her husband had died in a train accident to which she responds with tears.…

    • 718 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Women were to stick to a certain set of rules given by their partner, and when they tried to break away and be independent and work for themselves, there were repercussions. Men looked down upon women and their abilities during this time period. There was a snake at her back door one day, and Arthur was too afraid to kill it himself, so he made Fanny do it. The author claims, “Fanny was a heroine. It is my opinion that next to having a cougar spring at one, the absolute killing of a rattle-snake is peculiarly appropriate to constitute a Michigan heroine…” (Kirkland 27).…

    • 1994 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    It was smart and malicious in the way it starts the conversation with the woman: “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” (v. 1b). By using one word “any,” the snake left a big gap of information for the woman who wanted to correct the snake’s wrong knowledge. With its pretense, the snake successfully drew the woman to its “equator” of deeper dialogue. As its prediction, the woman responded without any hesitation that they might eat the fruit of the trees except for the tree in the middle of the garden (vv. 2-3).…

    • 1266 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Despite the warnings of people in the village, Sykes kept the snake around, and kept bragging to everybody that he had it under control. Eventually the snake got out of the box one day, just as an evil would, and scared Delia out of the house to hide. Finally she has had enough: “Well, Ah done de bes’ Ah could. If things aint right, Gawd knows taint mah fault” (1039).When Sykes returned home at the dawn from his mistress, his own evil turned on him. Snake bit him several times and Sykes dies in agony, calling out for Delia’s…

    • 760 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    One powerful literary motif Mary Shelley embeds in her novel is the reoccurrence of passive women in the novel. The passive women suffer but accept their misfortunes in the novel. For example, Caroline Beaufort dies early on in the novel as a selfless mother taking care of her adopted daughter, Elizabeth. Victor’s creation of the female monster is ultimately aborted out of fear that she will be just as bad as the first monster he created. Justine, a family servant, is executed for the murder of William, despite her innocence, however accepts her outcome.…

    • 1562 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    One event is when Charlotte, who is dying, opens a letter from an anonymous person. As she gently ripped the envelope, two spiders came crawling onto her. When Anne pretends to be a loyal assistant to Charlotte, she says to herself, “I stepped on one of the spiders and took the second one off her arm and squeezed it between my fingers; I’ve never done such a thing in my life, but for some reason this particular spider just made me sick” (Jackson 291). Though the reader may not know it at the time, Anne wants to frighten Charlotte to help her sickness stop her heart. If the young girl is successful with this, she will receive Charlotte’s riches.…

    • 882 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    As we read the “rat” is actually talking about Homer. After he died she kept his dead body a room that she locked, so that she could fill up that lost and that empty feeling that she had when her father died. In the end, we see that she did plan to kill Homer for her own selfish and dark reasons and in the end poisons him. William Faulkner's story teaches us the idea that if your taking people for your own comfort and benefit it will drive you insane, and even to the point of killing someone. In life people hold on to certain things that make them feel comfortable, protected and loved.…

    • 507 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Kipling also expands Nagaina's characterization by giving her view of the story such as her thoughts and feelings. Based on all the supporting details in the previous paragraphs, Nagaina remained as an evil character throughout the entire story. I feel that even though the character has been very cold-hearted and shady in the story, surprisingly, she had been acting like a protective mom to help her offspring's futures. When the character, Nagaina, dies in the story, I feel not surprised because throughout the entire story, the snakes had been harassing and taunting all the other characters, Rikki-Tikki, the humans, and the animals in the story. I also think that the actions the snakes committed were injustice, but without their actions, the story would not have turned the path that is now.…

    • 1525 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Being bitten by this snake is a “curse” that is attached to her throughout the rest of the novel. Further, in The Glass Menagerie, the jonquils are reaffirmed as symbolic to Amanda’s pride (in regards to her appearance and her past), when she continues her story about her history with jonquils, explaining, “Jonquils became an absolute obsession” (Williams 54). It is evident here that Williams used jonquils to represent her obsession with her pride as well. Having Amanda claim her obsession with jonquils in a literal sense had her symbolically claiming her pride in her image and her past in a figurative sense. On the other hand, in Lives of the Saints, Cristina’s association with the snake and it’s symbolic pride is reaffirmed when…

    • 1731 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays