Saved Themes


Every character in this play is alienated not just from the rest of society, but each other. Pam and Fred are so alienated from their child that they refers to the child only as "it." Harry and Mary have lived in the same house for many years without speaking. Len does all he can to show Pam he loves her, but she ignores his advances. The ultimate stoning of the baby by the gang of toughs is the most pointed instance of alienation in the play. Alienation becomes a major theme in the play, informing all of the characters' actions and acts of violence throughout. The final scene is a tableau of alienation, in which Pam, Len, Harry, and Mary all pursue their own activities in the same room of the house without saying a word to one another.


Sex occurs as a theme many times throughout the play, although the audience never sees an explicit sexual act depicted. The first scene shows Pam and Len seducing one another in Pam's living room. They each have a kind of naive and silly approach to sex as they try to seduce one another, and Pam's father, Harry, keeps popping his head in, acting as a kind of strange paternal voyeur for the proceedings.

Later, Pam completely rejects Len sexually in favor of Fred, with whom she has a child. Fred and his friends are often talking lewdly about sex, swapping innuendoes and turning nearly every comment into a lewd one. Finally, Mary comes on to Len one day while she's getting ready to go out, a rendezvous which later turns out to completely disrupt and tear apart the family.


Violence is also a huge part of the play. Characters verbally abuse each other constantly, calling each other names and dismissing one another's feelings with a violent contempt. In the many verbal confrontations that we witness, we see that there is a physical aggression that is threatening to burst out. It does, when Mary pours the tea water on Harry's head towards the end of the play.

The play is also infamous for staging one of the most shocking scenes of violence in stage history. When Pam leaves her baby in the park with Fred and his friends, they begin to play with it in a violent way, eventually stoning it to death.


The play looks at the family unit in rather bleak terms. Harry and Mary are Pam's mother and father, and they do not speak to one another, orbiting around each other in silence day in and day out. Pam lives at home and behaves like a spoiled brat. Len then becomes their surrogate son, taking care of the household tasks with a dutiful reserve, all the while trying to win the heart of Pam. The image of family that the play depicts is not a typical or a healthy one, but a dysfunctional and alienated one.

Furthermore, the family unit breaks down even further when we see what a negligent mother Pam is. She lets her and Fred's baby cry continuously, and never cares for it, even giving it aspirin at one point to make sure it sleeps. The play shows the ways that society creates broken families.

Care and Concern

One of the more shocking elements of the play is how little the characters care about one another and the tragedies of their lives. Pam and Fred, in particular, do not seem to care about the child they have created together or its well-being, and this neglect becomes a horrifying trope in the narrative. The one character who cares a great deal—often to his own detriment—is Len. Len continually sacrifices his time and energy to help Pam and her family, even when she is cruel to him. He believes so firmly that Pam needs someone to take care of her that he ends up losing his time because he spends so much time looking after her.


While it is never explicitly addressed, the play implicitly suggests that the hardship, violence, and alienation faced by the characters have to do with class and poverty. Each of the characters is economically desperate and working-class, working for the next paycheck and struggling to live comfortable lives in a society that has marginalized them. It is easier to understand the horrific deeds that the characters commit if one thinks about them in a broader structure of class disparity, in which they have few resources, limited education, and barely any hope for a happy future.


People get rejected time and time again in the play. First, Pam rejects Len after having sex with him once. Then, Fred rejects Pam, much to her chagrin. All the characters reject the baby, who ends up suffering a horrific death because no one is willing to take care of it. The play stages instance after instance of rejection, almost as if to suggest that rejection and a breakdown of connection are inevitable in life.