Tiny Alice

In response to:

The Play that Dare Not Speak Its Name from the February 25, 1965 issue

To the Editors:

Philip Roth apparently missed the predominant animal symbolism of [Tiny Alice] (which makes reference to The Zoo Story more appropriate than comparison with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?). Tiny Alice opens with the lawyer trying to provoke two cardinals in a cage into singing (the scarlet male is the songbird!), moves to the lawyer and the Cardinal furiously exchanging animal epithets, rises to Julian’s eloquent dream of his martyrdom in the embrace of a lion, and falls to the presence of a mouse (tiny Alice?) in the miniature castle—all of which undermines the metaphysical theme of the play: man must embrace his animal nature, however lowly it may seem to him.

Roth closes his review with the protest, “How long before a play [will present] the homosexual hero as a homosexual, and not disguised as an angst-ridden priest, or an angry Negro, or an aging actress; or, worst of all, Everyman?” That last reference surely reveals Roth’s bias against metaphysical themes; but how dare he have the presumption to deny the playwright his own terms? And what is so glorious about just plain homosexuality, the defense of which seems to be the modern Romantic’s preoccupation? Albee is perfectly justified, on psychological and metaphysical grounds, in suggesting that Julian’s (latent) homosexuality is merely a way of denying his fleshly and animal nature.

John V. Hagopian

Department of English

Harpur College

Binghamton, New York


Undermined May 6, 1965