Concealed Reality

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            Wilder offers his audiences a range of emotions in his comedic play The Skin of Our Teeth. The absolute outrageous and ridiculous aspects of the play add to its slapstick humor. The characters who are thousands of years old, the ice ages, wars, and extreme floods survived by the characters, and the dinosaurs and mammoths who are not only pets but able to communicate with the human characters in the play help create the absurdity prevalent throughout the play. Beneath the humor and incredible setting and characters lie messages of real humanity.

            The relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus speak to the difficulties of marriage, the temptation of Sabina embodies a constant source of lust, and the touching relationship between Henry (Cain) and Gladys and their father Mr. Antrobus offers a realistic break from the twisted plot. Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus are constantly bickering over their children, their guests, and Sabina, and Mrs. Antrobus harbors a real fear of her husband, "Don't you know your father'd go crazy if he saw that..." (27). When faced with a real fear or even death itself, the family unit pulls together. It is Mrs. Antrobus that Mr. Antrobus calls for when they must board the boat during the hurricane, not Sabina, "My family? I have no family. Maggie! Maggie!" (87). In the end, it is the friendship and love of supposedly thousands of years that is strong enough to overcome lust and temptation. The source of this enticement stems from Sabina, also referred to as Ms. Fairweather whose affection for Mr. Antrobus runs hot and cold when she believes it is to her greatest advantage, when her relationship will bring fair weather. Interestingly, Mr. Antrobus cannot see the similarity between Sabina and Ms. Fairweather, but his wife can. "Hm! She looked like Sabina to me" (68). Mr. Antrobus is, in essence, blinded by Sabina/Ms. Fairweather's looks and charms. Despite this flaw, Mr. Antrobus is redeemed through his obviously affectionate relationship with his two children who, despite their faults, he cares deeply for. He is proud of their accomplishments in school, "You recited in assembly, did you? (She nods eagerly) You didn't forget it?" (48). His final, and most surprising quality, is his openness to caring for others who are less fortunate. He is described initially as being short tempered, but it is his idea to let the cold and hungry people on the street into their house for coffee "a whole pailful...And sandwiches, piles of them..." (36).

            Biblical allusions are also plentiful in Wilder's play. Henry's actual name is Cain, and it is suggested in their very beginning of the play that it was Henry/Cain who killed Abel, his brother. "...he can hit anything from a bird to an older brother - Oh! I didn't mean to say that! - but it certainly was an unfortunate accident..." (11). The flood in which all animals had to be put on the boat in two's was an obvious allusion to Noah and his arc. It is only Mr. Antrobus and his family who gets on the boat with the fortune teller warning the audience "You've had your chance. You've had your day. You've failed. You've lost...A new world to make" (92). The purpose, however, of these obvious biblical allusions is not as easily interpreted. Has anyone else found a purpose of these allusions?

 

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/03/wilder_the_skin_of_our_teeth/

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