Waiting for Lefty

Waiting for Lefty Summary and Analysis of III. The Young Hack and His Girl

Florence tells her brother Irv that she needs "something out of life," and that Sid, who is going to take her to a dance, provides that. Irv warns her that both he and their mother disapprove of Sid since he makes little money as a taxi driver. Florence insists she loves Sid, and that she works hard to take care of their sick mother but that she needs more from life. Finally she buckles and says she'll talk to Sid tonight.

Sid comes in, and Irv leaves. Florence greets him, and they pretend to be royalty before kissing. Florence says she's been thinking about him. He reciprocates, though he says he knows he is like "rat poison" to her family. He tells her his brother joined the navy that morning, but assures her he won't run away from her. He says he can tell what she is thinking--that she doesn't want to marry him anymore. He laments their lowly status as "dogs" in life. He believes that if the powerful "big shot money men" gave in "just an inch," the "dogs" like them would take over. He is upset that his brother, a college boy, has swallowed the "money men"'s propaganda and joined the navy to fight foreigners who are, ultimately, just like himself. Florence says she will follow Sid anywhere, but he tells her to be realistic. He turns on a record player and they dance. They stop when the music ends. He tries to make her laugh, but she buries her face in her hands, and he buries his face in her lap.


Florence yells "This is the subject!" to Sid. She echoes Edna's statement to Joe, and both times the subject comes down to money. She yearns for something beyond the ordinary in life, as does Sid. But in a world controlled by the "big shot money men," neither can fulfill the typical roles of a man and woman; Florence is reduced to permanent daughterhood, tending to her sick mother, while Sid feels like his manhood has been ruined by the world: "If we went off together I could maybe look the world straight in the face, spit in its eye like a man should. Goddamnit, it's trying to be a man on the earth." Though the audience has sympathy for his lack of confidence, it should remain aware of his desire to "spit in [the world's] eye like a man should." According to Sid, a man's proper attitude is aggressive and violent. Battered by poverty, he has grown into a competitive and bitter man. Such an attitude makes it understandable why many men were reluctant to enter unions; raised on an ideology of competition, they cannot grasp notions of unity and brotherhood.

Instead, Sid and Florence shift between awareness of their stark reality and delusional fantasies. Their role-play as Hollywood stars and royalty lasts only so long before it crumbles under the weight of their poverty. As with Sid's desire to "spit in [the world's] eye like a man should," we should question their desires. It is clear that money and power are the underlying problems in their lives, and seemingly across the world, yet they also wish to be the rich and powerful. However, it is also clear that these desires are truly fantasies, and that all they really want is a life of fulfilling work and family. Their fantasies are endearing, but their earnest, meager desires make them compelling characters.

Sid, especially, is a sharper thinker than he believes himself to be. Like Miller, the lab assistant, he understands the propaganda machine at work that provokes hatred for foreigners--even though the foreigner is a "guy like me and Sam, a guy who wants his baby like you and hot sun on his face!" He is upset that though his brother went to college, he evidently hasn't given any thought to these issues. Higher education, he implies, does not necessarily instill common sense.

In the same vein, though Sid says he never finished school and complains of his inarticulacy, he speaks some of the more eloquent dialogue in the play. He uses metaphorical terms he knows from his rougher background to describe greater economic relationships: "The damn fool don't see the cards is stacked for all of us. The money man dealing himself a hot royal flush. Then giving you and me a phony hand like a pair of tens or something." This scene has an overall realistic feel thanks largely to Odets's blend of sentimentality and honesty. The two young lovers have their private jokes--"Did you ever see my Pat Rooney imitation?"--and heartfelt desires: "I get like thunder in my chest when we're together." Both lines contain either a unique gesture or phrase, and both communicate Sid's intense love for Florence, a love that can never flourish because of the "money men" who control the world.