Summary and Analysis Act III: The Exorcism: Scene ii


In this scene between Nick and Martha, Nick reports that Honey is again lying curled up on the bathroom tiles and is peeling the label off the brandy bottle. This scene ends when George enters with the snapdragons.

The first significant revelation is that, for all of his youthfulness and acclaimed athletic prowess, Nick has been "a flop" in bed. "A flop" is used several times in this scene to emphasize Nick's failure. Even though Nick blames alcohol for his sexual failure in bed, the fact that he has failed causes Martha to look at her own failures and inadequacies and to realize that George is the only person who can fulfill her emotionally and physically. She realizes it is "George who is good to me, and whom I revile; who understands me and whom I push off; who can make me laugh, and I choke it back . . . who keeps learning the games we play as quickly as I can change the rules; who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy . . ."

Nick, in his youthful vigor, finds it unbelievable that George can satisfy Martha. Martha, who now calls herself the "Earth Mother," comes to George's defense and relegates Nick to the position of "houseboy," which signals yet another game. In other words, if Nick can't perform in bed, then he can at least be a houseboy. As the doorbell rings, she orders him to answer it. When Nick resists being reduced to the level of a "flunky," Martha hurls at him an insulting remark about his impotence: ". . . Answer the door. There must be something you can do well; or, are you too drunk to do that, too? Can't you get the latch up, either?" Then she reminds Nick of his ambitions and career: "You didn't chase me around the kitchen . . . out of mad, driven passion, did you now? You were thinking a little bit about your career, weren't you? Well, you can just houseboy your way up." Thus, because Nick, like all the men in Martha's life, has disappointed Martha, he is reduced by her to a house servant.

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