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How I Learned to Drive


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A: Paula Vogel Pf: 1997, New York Pb: 1998 G: Drama without act or scene divisions S: Suburban Maryland, 1963–1990s C: 2m, 3f(The action is interrupted with advice about driving and admonitions from Li'l Bit's mother, and all parts except her and Peck are played by a ‘Greek Chorus’ of one man and a woman.) Li'l Bit grows up with her mother, grandparents, and Aunt Mary and Uncle Peck, an attractive man in his forties originally from South Carolina. When the family joke about the big bosom she is developing, only Peck shows her kindness. In flashbacks, we see her at school, already at 13 attracting attention with her full breasts. Peck photographs her young body. When she is 15, Peck begins to teach her how to drive, while she flirts with him. He takes her out for dinner. When she goes to boarding school, he sends her love letters and gifts. As soon as she reaches her 18th birthday, they meet in a hotel room, but Li'l Bit says that they must not meet any more. Soon she is thrown out of school for drunkenness, and takes to driving around the roads at night. Within five years, Peck drinks himself to death. At 27, Li'l Bit sleeps with a man but thinks only of Peck. In a final flashback to the age of 11, she recalls how traumatized she was when Peck fondled her breasts, while he allowed her to drive.

A: Paula Vogel Pf: 1997, New York Pb: 1998 G: Drama without act or scene divisions S: Suburban Maryland, 1963–1990s C: 2m, 3f

In this Pulitzer Prize- and Obie-winning play, Vogel ventures into the problematic area of paedophilia, boldly allowing Peck to be a very positive character, who gently initiates Li'l Bit into learning to drive and learning to love. Only in the final flashback do we understand how Peck has actually damaged Li'l Bit's life: ‘That day was the last day I lived in my body. I retreated above the neck, and I've lived inside the “fire” in my head ever since.’

Subjects: Theatre — Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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