By Mulk Raj Anand
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Extra info for The Indian Theatre
The play’s first scene is composed of a long, rambling monologue by Mrs. Zero in which Rice clearly establishes the class habitus of an emblematic lower-middle class couple just barely maintaining itself above the proletariat. ) The first half of her speech is devoted to a disquisition on a cultural form from which the play is especially eager to distance itself, motion pictures, both because of the art theater’s higher aspirations and Rice’s own discomfiting history in the industry. Mrs. Zero is presented as a strereotypical female moviegoer who prefers “sweet little love stories” to “them Westerns” (3).
My second example, a minor, one-act sketch in Harper’s Monthly (September 1912), Nervous Prostration by Marie Manning, also might be easy to pass by but to do so would be to overlook the cultural freight it carries and on which it depends. Set in the reading room of a resort hotel, the play satirizes the middle-class obsession with nervousness and Higher Thought. The characters, all recognizable social types, from “First Lady with a Gift for Personality” to “A Motor Enthusiast in Exile” to “The Gentle [bicycle] Speeder,” discuss their symptoms of and remedies for nervousness.
This little farce of course depends on the reader’s familiarity (whether through actual or vicarious experience) with resort hotels and social types belonging to a privileged Reading Drama 47 class but, more important, it is essential that the reader also know about the two fads being ridiculed. Neurasthenia (literally “nerve weakness”) was introduced in medical literature for the first time in 1869, but became increasingly common through the end of the century and reached a fever pitch in 1903.
The Indian Theatre by Mulk Raj Anand