The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of George telling Tracy he wants to build her an ivory tower?

    George says this to Tracy after telling her how enchanted he is by her independence and strength, that she doesn't need anything. After Dexter and her father tell her that she is too headstrong and domineering, Tracy goes to George for some comfort and love and the assurance that she is a vulnerable, lovable human being. He says all the wrong things, however, and insists that he "worships" her. She needs to be loved, not idolized, and George's insistence that he wants to build her an ivory tower to stay in does little to assuage her fears and self doubt.

  2. 2

    How do Mike and Elizabeth gain access to Tracy's wedding?

    Mike and Elizabeth accept the assignment for Spy Magazine to cover Tracy Lord's wedding, but the Lord's won't allow any reporters in, so, Mike and Elizabeth pose as friends of Tracy's brother, Junius, with the help of Dexter, who agrees to help Spy Magazine get their story. Dexter agrees to work with them so that Spy doesn't run a lurid story about Tracy's father in the paper.

  3. 3

    Why does Dinah comes in speaking French and walking on her toes in ballerina slippers when she meets Mike and Liz?

    After Dexter reveals to the Lords that the reporters are blackmailing the family into letting them cover the wedding for Spy, the family resolves to put on a baffling performance for the reporters to confuse them and sabotage their story. Dinah is the first to meet the two reporters and she pretends to be very rich and ridiculous as a way of satirizing her own upper-class position. By speaking in French and scurrying around in ballet slippers, she puts on a performance of a stereotypical spoiled little rich girl, who is at once charming and precocious and completely out-of-touch with the real world. In reality, Dinah is quite direct and straightforward, not at all the spacey and dreamy girl she pretends to be. Her performance works and Mike and Liz are thoroughly confused by her histrionic antics.

  4. 4

    How does Tracy change by the end of the film?

    In the beginning of the movie, Tracy is depicted as very intelligent and strong-willed, but a little hard on the people she loves. Both Dexter and Mr. Lord chide her for her exterminating attitude, Dexter saying that she will never be a "first class human being" until she learns to exhibit some natural human frailty, and her father blaming some of his marital infidelity on the fact that Tracy never showed him "uncritical affection." These criticisms make Tracy feel bad about herself, and she resorts to drinking heavily on the evening before her wedding. While her self-destructive impulse seems at first as though it might have a disastrous effect, it ends up catalyzing Tracy's loosening up and dropping some of her prickly defenses. She gets good and drunk, makes some ill-advised but liberating mistakes, and has a gay old time. The following morning, she is contrite, but she has learned a little more about what she wants from life, and it isn't George Kittredge. Having let down her guard, Tracy forgives her wayward father and realizes how much she still loves Dexter. By the time she ends up on the altar with Dexter, Tracy feels like a "human being," a real woman of flesh and blood, and not a cold and removed goddess whose standards are too high.

  5. 5

    How are Mike and Tracy's views of class different?

    From the very first moment he receives the assignment to cover Tracy's wedding, Mike rolls his eyes at the upper classes. He fancies himself a real poet and writer, and the last thing he wants to do is report on the superficialities of the rich and famous. His skepticism continues as he and Liz infiltrate the Lord estate, and he wanders around making fun of the Lords' ornate mansion and expensive belongings. He is very ready to have a similar skepticism about the willful socialite, Tracy, but is disarmed when he finds her to be quite personable, intelligent, and curious about his work. Tracy, by contrast, has an entirely "class blind" view of the world, and believes that a person's class has nothing to do with who they are. When Mike brings up the word "class," she becomes indignant, insisting, "What have classes to do with it? What do they matter except for the people in them? George comes from the so-called lower class, Dexter, the upper." Mike, as a member of the struggling middle and artistic class, has a critique of how class affects people, while Tracy has the luxury of wealth to protect her from thinking of such distinctions.