The play “How I learned to drive” is written by the playwright Paula Vogel and won her a Pulitzer award for drama in 1998. The play revolves around the theme of social and familial relationship where there is sexual predation and manipulation. The play follows the sexual relationship that goes on between Lil’ Bit and her Uncle Peck from the time she was eleven years old.
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Their relationship is strained, with her uncle seeking sexual favors from her while she manipulates him wanting to learn how to drive. Her aunt, Peck’s wife, is in denial of her husband’s behavior and does little to stop this molestation (Vogel 19). The book also follows issues on misogyny and alcoholism, which seem to be dominant in the family.
Does the time and place in which the play takes places have any additional relevance?
The play is set in the 1960’s a period where family life was based on the traditional setting where a husband, male in the house, was dominant over the rest of the family. This is significant because it explains why Uncle Peck’s wife did not intervene though there were clear signs that his intentions towards Lil’ Bit were questionable. This is also shown through the relationship her grandparents had. Her grandfather was a sexist while her grandmother was a god fearing former child bride.
The play is also based on family relationships. The play shows how the family members can be their own worst enemies. In a family it is expected that the older generation should take care of the young one but in the case of Lil’ Bit her uncle preys on her sexually and even proposes to marry her under the disguise of waiting for her to turn eighteen.
What techniques used to move the plot forward make it interesting and/or unusual?
The playwright delivers her work in an uneven mixture of several styles. She uses flashbacks, narration, and monologues. This helps to make the story more interesting and at the same time deliver the themes of the play in a unique and interesting way. The play starts with Lil’ Bit as a grown up adult and shows her giving a talk on how to drive. She then describes her town Maryland during her young age in the 1960’s and follows this with a setting of her and her uncle sitting in a car in 1969.
The then seventeen-year-old Li’l Bit moves next to Uncle Peck who acts like a little child and tells her he has not drank alcohol in a week. As a reward for his behavior, she rewards him by letting him undo her bra. After leaving the parking lot, Li’l Bit is the one driving the car. In one of the flashbacks, Li’l Bit recalls of a family dinner in 1969, where the dinner conversation revolved around how big her breasts had become. Her sexist grandfather makes jokes about her breasts size and this makes her to flee the room.
Uncle Peck follows her and after consoling her, they arrange to meet later in the night. Though Uncle Peck molests her sexually, she is fond of him because she feels that both of them are the outcasts in the family and he is the only family member who is nice to her (Vogel 25).
Lastly, are you moved this play? if so why? If not, why not?
The play is moving and through the story of Li’l Bit, we learn about the various evils that sometimes happen in a family. We see her being sexually molested by her uncle Peck who seeks sexual favors from her and her grandfather who makes fun of her sexuality regarding the size of breasts. Against all reasoning, we see her forgiving her uncle and she feels sorry for his miserable life. She also appreciates him for teaching her how to drive and attributes this to the freedom she feels when she drives.
Vogel, Paula. How I learned to drive. New York, NY: Dramatists Play Service, 1998. Print