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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Study Guide-MonkeyNotes Book Summary
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Nick

He is a young instructor at New England College and participates in the games that George and Martha play, not realizing how dangerous they are until the end. As a professor of biology, he stands for modern values and the ascent of the sciences in learning. He is the future. Although he appears to be well intentioned, he is quite shallow, obsessed with his good looks and is ruthlessly deceptive underneath. He is too polite to refuse Martha's invitation, though he is aware that it is a very late hour for a party to begin. In his conversations with the host he exposes himself at some points as somewhat obtuse but cunning. He is never sure of the exact rules of the games, nonetheless he continues to participate in them. He is competitive and ambitious.

Martha reveals late in the play that it had been his eagerness to make a mark in his profession that had prompted him to succumb to her seduction. He knows she is the president of the college and that through her, he may be able to curry favors as well as promotions. This reveals Nick as a downright opportunist. The fact that he had agreed to marry Honey partly due to the money that her corrupt father had left her, suggests how his life revolves around money and success. It is no surprise then (as he himself expresses it), that there is no passion in their marital life. He also treats her like a child and constantly attempts to shield Honey from George's cursing and sexual innuendo. Yet at the same time he is reviled by this older couple, he also wants to ingratiate himself to them and tries to prove his manhood by going along with Martha's advances. This only leads to him feeling impotent and angry as he ends up unable to satisfy her.


Albee projects him as a character pursuing the 'American Dream' in pursuit of professional and monetary success yet his underhandedness undermines the values associated with acquiring success. He is a total contrast to George as he represents unscrupulous professional ethics. His attitude is diametrically opposed to George's effort to maintain morals in life. As a professor of history, George stands for protecting the past and Nick serves as a symbol of the future. He also signifies the decline and decay of human virtues. Albee does not provide Nick with any family history. His childhood memories are related to Honey and their "doctor games." Some information about him is dropped here and there throughout the play: he is a good boxer and has earned a master's degree at the age of nineteen. The play portrays him as an intelligent, manipulative and shrewd individual, only absorbed in promoting his own interests. He lacks a conscientious attitude, which is so strikingly apparent in the character of George, and wants only to progress up the ladder of success.

Honey

She is the pallid, slim-hipped wife of Nick, a submissive, doll-like figure. Her naïve child-like talk induces other characters to recount their stories yet she remains unaffected by the verbal dueling erupting in the play. Her own anxieties and fears act as a deterrent to having a meaningful relationship with Nick and make her impervious to the cantankerous bickering around her. Their marriage had been a hastily arranged ceremony, motivated by her hysterical pregnancy. Right from the beginning it was one of deception and betrayal. She is apprehensive of having children. Her way of filling this void is to eschew responsibility by acting like a child. She appears absolutely ignorant of the problems in her life and refuses to take a hint from George that her husband is engaged in adultery in the kitchen. She does not grow much from being "a wifey little type who gargles brandy all the time" but she does seem to change during the course of the play, announcing that she wants a child after Martha regales them with stories of her son.

The hysterical pregnancy that Nick speaks about is an important indication of Honey's delusion. This along with her constant nausea, her headaches and her constant "whining" as George figures out does not arise from her habit of excessive drinking. Probable reasons could be that she has gone through an abortion, fears the responsibility of mothering, or she could be using birth control methods to prevent any pregnancy at all. The way she behaves such as sucking her thumb, lying in a fetal position, and participating in her own little world indicate her refusal to accept the responsibility that comes with parenting. As opposed to Martha who represents an "earth mother" who nevertheless is sterile, Honey is the "eternal child" who can have children but refuses to do so.

However, she emerges a changed person at the end of the play and displays her courage to reject the apprehensions and illusions governing the lives of the other characters. Her cries, "I want a child. I want a baby" illustrate this. George and Martha's confession acts as a corrective for Honey and Nick to retrace and reassess themselves and their lives within a more realistic perception.

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