The Significance of a Birthday

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The very last line of dialogue in the play is, "Happy Birthday Constance" (88) said by both Desdemona and Juliet in the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald. It took me awhile after that moment to realize why the birthday was so important and why all three of the main characters (Desdemona, Constance, and Juliet) had the same birthday. It's because they're all the same person which is clearly stated throughout the play when they say "'Where two plus one adds up to one, not three'" (88 and other places). Still this wasn't immediately apparent to me as it probably should have been. Regardless, this foreshadowing further represents the different parts of Constance's self that are enhanced by both Desdemona and Juliet. This is clearly the whole point of the play, to have Constance realize she is a better person than she gives herself credit for since Constance is constantly putting herself down through certain speeches that she gives.

Desdemona represents the power struggle that she has with herself, and how Constance should fight back and stand up for herself by not allowing Claude or the students to walk all over her. She even allows Claude to put her down when he asks her "What gives you the notion you're special?" and Constance follows it up with, "I'm just one flaw and isolated fragment of a perfect infinite mind like everybody else" (16) illustrating how common she is and that there is nothing unique about her. Even though the evidence is all around that she is unique, she just can't see it. Desdemona helps her find that inner strength inside of her that was just begging to be brought out.

Juliet, on the other hand, represents the part of herself that wishes to find love. Constance is in love with Claude, which is a dead end since he is leaving her and marrying Ramona. It isn't until Juliet asks Constance about her love life does she realize that it is unrequited love that she should have gotten away from long ago. Still both Juliet and Desdemona help Constance find her true self. Yet as foolish as Constance may have been, I found myself feeling like a fool at the end for not having seen what was coming the whole time. The foreshadowing and riddles were all set up to let the reader know the ending, but I just missed it completely. Then again, maybe I'm just not giving MacDonald enough credit here for her writing.   

6 Comments

Jessica Orlowski said:

Umm... Melissa, I didn't get the "One Plus Two Equals One, Not Three" until I read your blog. So, thanks. You make some valid points here. I had never thought of Desdemona and Juliet becoming crucial parts of Constance. I don't know why, it just never occurred to me.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Well, I'm glad I helped you solve the mystery. It makes sense though since Constance is so meek and needed to learn both about standing up and fighting forself as well as certain aspects about unrequitted love. So these characters help enhance and make Constance a more believable and round character.

I'm still trying to decide what I think about Constance. She's such an elusive character to my mind. Sometimes I think "wow, this play was an excellent feminist play. You see her change throughout it, and then she's 'reborn' at the end when her counterparts wish her a Happy Birthday." However, then I realize that both characters are simply archetypes. So, what, she consists of two generalized characters? Doesn't that just make her a combination of generalized characters, not a complete being?

Do you think their wishes for a happy birthday for Constance is symbolic of her rebirth, and do you think MacDonald writes this rebirth successfully and believably?

Melissa Schwenk said:

Karyssa - The whole point is that she isn't a complete being. I don't think Constance will ever be a complete being. I don't think anyone literature or otherwise could say they were. Regardless, Constance is just trying to become a more complete person by going through these two worlds and having a new rebirth at the end of it. However, you're right. Constance's character is rather hard to peg down, probably because she is just starting to realize her new role in life.

I'm not really sure if the rebirth was very successful because it felt rushed, and there was no view of whether she took anything away from her experience in these other worlds. If she did, then maybe it was written believably. What did you think?

I agree with you about the idea that no one can really be a "complete being," but I view it differently. I think of all a person's different traits, learned from different experiences and different people, make a person complete in a human way. I don't know if this will make sense anywhere but in my head, because it might be one of those personal-and-slightly-contradictory beliefs. But I feel like a person being incomplete makes them complete according to nature's laws. It's like, since everyone is incomplete, what is complete? The most "complete" anyone can be is a certain degree of incomplete. It's like the circle can never fully be closed, but since it's not supposed to, it's ok.

I kind of confused my own head with that. Sorry!

Anyways, I know Constance is incomplete, but I feel like she should have more traits than those of two archetypal characters. Perhaps she does, but Macdonald doesn't really suggest it. I think she did throughout the play to a certain extent, but like you said, the ending was so rushed that it left me feeling like it was missing something. Maybe that was Macdonald's intention - the story seems incomplete just like the character of Constance? I don't know really.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Karyssa, great point about the incompleteness making Constance complete. I never looked at it like that, but it makes a lot of sense. It's possible that MacDonald intended the ending to be incomplete like Constance, but since there is really no way of knowing the author's intention and really it doesn't matter either way, I think it might just be an added bonus to the overall ending of the story.

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