Summary and Analysis
Act 1: Fun and Games:
These two short scenes begin with George continuing with the fun and games. He returns with the fake gun and pretends that he is going to shoot Martha. Since the arguments between George and Martha have been so vituperative and seemingly bitter, Nick and Honey are horrified. (In some productions, the gun explodes with an American flag rather than a Chinese parasol. While the American flag emphasizes rather lamely the underlying parody of American life and values, the Chinese parasol carries through more aptly the idea of the fun and games.) Furthermore, the gun is an obvious sexual symbol which delights Martha's sensuous self. In the same scene, she refers to George as "You . . . prick." At the end of the scene, she delights in using double meanings when she tells Nick that she bets he won't need a fake gun, or any other "props."
When Martha finds out that Nick is not in math but in biology, she continues her vulgar suggestiveness by maintaining that biology is closer "to the meat of things."
Scene ix opens with Martha telling Nick as he re-enters: "You're right at the meat of things, baby" a phrase she repeats until George tells her that she is obsessed with it. There is then the discussion, begun earlier in the third scene, concerning the sciences and the humanities. During this scene, as biological matters are discussed and as Martha becomes more and more attracted to young Nick, she increasingly degrades George. In a type of discussion reminiscent of science fiction, George defends the "glorious variety and unpredictability" of the human race against the scientist's idea of creating test-tube babies according to a certain pattern. George, the intellectual humanist, argues for "surprise, the multiplexity" found in natural birth. Nick, the scientist, stands for the creation of a "civilization of men, smooth, blond, and right at the middleweight limit." George's stand against Nick can also be seen as a defense against all the forces which are threatening the "sanctity" of his home.
As George defends the rights of humans, the subject of his "son" is brought up by Honey. At first, the imaginary son is referred to as an "it" which is quite appropriate. George, however, is the one who insists that Martha tell about their son because she is the one who brought it (him) up. And the subject of the son becomes the raison d'être for the remainder of the play: that is, George must "get the guests" in order to preserve the sanctity of the hearth. The scene ends with George going to get more booze.