Three Key Themes in Summer of The Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler

Summer of the Seventeenth doll is an iconic Australian play, with some deep themes. Here are three of the key ones.

1. Nostalgia and the Passage of Time: The play is set in the 1950s and centers around a group of characters who reunite annually for the summer season. The doll in the title represents a ritualistic gift exchanged between two of the characters, symbolizing their romanticized view of their youth. Throughout the play, Lawler explores the tension between the characters’ longing for the past and the harsh reality of the present. The theme of nostalgia highlights the characters’ struggle to come to terms with the passing of time and the changing dynamics of their relationships.

2. Gender Roles and Expectations: Another important theme in the play is the exploration of gender roles and expectations in 1950s Australian society. Lawler portrays the traditional gender roles that were prevalent during that time, with women expected to be caretakers and homemakers while men are seen as the breadwinners. The female characters, Olive and Pearl, challenge these expectations by working in the city and seeking independence, which creates tension and disrupts the established dynamics within the group. The play raises questions about the limitations placed on women and the struggle for autonomy and fulfillment within societal expectations.

3. Illusion versus Reality: The characters engage in a yearly performance of recreating their youthful summer romance, but as the play unfolds, the cracks in their idealized vision become apparent. The harsh realities of aging, disappointment, and unmet expectations begin to shatter the illusions they have built. Lawler examines the consequences of clinging to illusions and the challenges of facing reality, highlighting the characters’ struggles to reconcile their desires and dreams with the truths of their lives.

These themes intertwine to create a complex exploration of personal and societal dynamics. The play offers a snapshot of a particular era in Australian society while delving into universal themes of time, gender, and the human condition. Through its compelling characters and evocative storytelling, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll prompts audiences to reflect on the passage of time, the limitations imposed by societal norms, and the delicate balance between illusion and reality.


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