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Drama: Paula Vogel’s “How I Learned to Drive”

Driving lessons are similar to lessons in life because the learner should understand how to control oneself and influence surroundings. This idea is reflected in Paula Vogel’s play “How I Learned to Drive” (1997). However, this idea comes to mind only after the play’s ending because it is necessary to cope with many emotions and feelings caused by the viewed scenes. Driving can be discussed as a perfect metaphor to explain the variety of challenges in the life of any person. In the final scenes of “How I Learned to Drive”, Li’l Bit, the main female character, discusses driving as the process to cause the “flight in the body”, like dancing or jogging, and she explains the process of starting a car in detail because it is the pleasant thing for her (Vogel 2267).

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Still, to understand the meaning of this final scene, it is necessary to refer to the whole play and to the character’s relations with the man who learned Li’l Bit to drive. In this context, the idea of driving also receives the features of an amoral activity which has the unhidden sexual meaning. Thus, the ending of Vogel’s play can be interpreted from many perspectives, including the context of choosing driving as a substitutional factor, as a rescue from perverting relationships, and as a choice of control in the personal life.

In order to interpret the ending of Vogel’s play and draw conclusions about the whole work, it is necessary to concentrate on feelings affected by the play and on the revealed emotions. It is important to concentrate on the playwright’s style and tone because the focus on metaphors and naturalism at the same time can provoke misunderstanding. Still, the metaphor of driving becomes clear from the first minutes, and it is the first step to come to conclusions.

Vogel writes simple dialogues which sound naturally, but the unique structure of her play is used to provide the additional meaning to some actions and words. In this context, driving guidelines and instructions are effective to create the additional metaphor. Following the story of Li’l Bit’s relations with Uncle Peck, it is possible to concentrate on such phrases from the guidelines as the “vehicle failure” and “children depend on you to watch them” (Vogel 2238, 2246).

The path to concluding about the play is rather long, and it includes focusing on the fact that Li’l Bit almost made her life to be the absolute failure and on the fact that the origin of perverting relations is in the family relations. Flashbacks used by the author allow focusing on Li’l Bit’s family in which relations are based on ignorance (Vogel 2234). As a result, Li’l Bit became close with the person who demonstrated attention and care about her.

The ending of Vogel’s play can be discussed as affecting the vision of life because it makes the reader and viewer focus on really important things in life. It is possible to state that Li’l Bit and Uncle Peck develop their relationships because they have no other important relationships in their life, and they suffer from a kind of emptiness. However, Li’l Bit breaks the cycle of their relations and focuses on driving as a substitute which provides the necessary feeling of control that was lost in the relations with Uncle Peck (Vogel 2267). The audience’s life is affected when persons become to realize what really matters in their life and to understand the role of relations in the family.

The play also contributes to influencing the person’s vision of the social situation. A teenager and a middle-aged person start sexual relationships from the driving lessons (Vogel 2254). It is possible to speak about pedophilia and incest in this case. The situation seems to be shocking, but the careful description of scenes and naturalistic details in dialogues support the idea that this situation is not unusual for the modern society. Referring to the newspapers’ titles, it is possible to discuss many similar situations. As a result, when the play ends, the shock associated with the discussed issue of sexuality and pedophilia changed with the shock of realizing the real-world situation.

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Vogel’s characters seem to be natural or real-life, and this fact is frightening because it makes people think about the shocking realities. That is why, the interpretation of the ending takes a lot of time and efforts in order to conclude about how to evaluate the story about the painful experience and about the understanding of life lessons. It is also necessary to state that Vogel did not attempt to change the culture of the 1990s because the settings and time periods are different, but she reflected the underrepresented problems in the society, in family relations, and in the personal development with the help of using effective metaphors, exaggeration, flashbacks, and naturalistic details. In this case, Vogel is a realist, and her play makes the audience think over many issues after the curtain comes down.

Works Cited

Vogel, Paula. “How I Learned to Drive”. The Norton Introduction to Literature. Ed. Alison Booth and Kelly Mays. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010. 2227-2267. Print.

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