Summary and Analysis
Act II: Walpurgisnacht:
In scene x, George is left alone and his reactions reveal his inner emotions. The passage from the book George is reading, Spengler's Decline of the West, is appropriate because it deals with "crippling alliances" and "a morality too rigid to accommodate itself . . ." After a pause, he violently hurls the book at the chimes. If this type of scene (between Martha and Nick) had been a frequent occurrence, George would be accustomed to it. Instead, however, he is hurt and bewildered. His desperation is expressed in his hurling the book.
In scene xi, the chiming awakens Honey who has been dreaming. In telling about her dream, Honey reveals that she does not want children — that she is afraid. George immediately perceives that Honey's headaches, nausea, and "whining" stem from something other than alcohol. The implication is either that she aborted her first pregnancy out of fear of childbirth or currently takes, and will continue, to take birth control pills to prevent the pregnancies that Nick might want or expect her to have. In addition, she remains "childlike" (sucking her thumb, sleeping in a fetal position) to avoid having to face the adult responsibility of pregnancy. In contrast to Martha, the "earth mother" who can't have any children, Honey is the eternal child who refuses to have any children.
When a loud noise ("the crashing of dishes") is heard off stage, George tries to tell Honey what is going on between Martha and Nick, but she only wants to know who rang the chimes. George puns that the bang, bang of the bells announce the sexual bang, bang of Martha and Nick's affair, but Honey ignores this.
The query about the bells inspires George to conceive of a way to get back at Martha. He convinces Honey that the doorbell was rung by a messenger with the news that his and Martha's son is dead. Since the audience does not yet know that the son is an imaginary one, George's decision to tell Martha that their son is dead would appear to the audience to be an extremely cruel lie — a horrible, sick joke that goes beyond the boundaries of the other games that they have been playing.