Faith Hope and Love in “How I Learned to Drive”

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The three theological virtues, faith, hope, and love are recurring themes throughout history, especially prevalent in theater and plays. The idea of hope in Angels in America by Tony Kushner and How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel creates a sense of a happy endings in both plays; however looking deeper it may only be a happy ending for some of the characters. All three virtues must work together symbiotically, without one they would cease to exist. The characters from both plays, Angels in America and How I Learned to Drive go through traumatic circumstances and events, and communicate to the audience in different ways in order to cope with their grief. Li’l Bit, How I Learned to Drive, and Prior Walter and The Angel, Angels in America, use the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in order to process and explain their traumatic experiences.

The character of Li’l Bit in How I Learned to Drive narrates her story in segments of memories, completely out of order and on her own terms. She is painting a story in flashbacks, accessing repressed memories in a strategic order. These flashbacks only allow the audience access to what Li’l Bit wants to tell. How I Learned to Drive is set in the 1960-70’s, in an extremely poor and rural town where Li’l Bit lives with her mother and father. Her family is very open about sexuality, often joking about sexual subjects at the dinner table. While eating dinner, Li’l Bit’s grandfather says Well she better stop being so sensitive, cause five minutes before Li’l Bit turns the corner, her tits turn first (Vogel 11).

The family’s openness with sex makes Li’l Bit uncomfortable, telling them to stop and walking away from the table. Though the last scene in the play, if we put the the play together chronologically the first scene is during a trip where Lil’ Bit wants to stay an extra week at the beach and drive home with Uncle Peck. Li’l Bit’s mother says no at first, but after Li’l Bit’s relentless insisting, her mother tells her it’s her own fault if she gets hurt. On the ride home, Uncle Peck sexually assaults Li’l Bit however; she waits until the end of the play to give us that information for a reason. After revealing the piece of the puzzle she was withholding the entire play, Li’l Bit says: That day was the last day I lived in my body. I retreated above the neck, and lived inside the fire in my head ever since (Vogel 58). This statement is extremely powerful, as it demonstrates faith, hope, and love at once. This complex love for Uncle Peck is not black and white, Herren explains,Li’l Bit’s relationship with Peck was a love/hate relationship with a man who was not only her uncle and her abuser but also her mentor, teacher, father-figure, and confidante. As an adult capable of forgiveness, she can appreciate the gifts that he gave her along with the punishments (Herren par 5).

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