Woody Allen’s play, Death Knocks, basically talks about fooling death and putting it off. In the dramatic arts, the theme is known as the motivation for the author’s choice of certain kinds of characters and events and the presence of certain significant details. In his play, viewers can see how Allen’s choice of characters and the content within their conversation allows the theme of this play to represent how most people do what they can to avoid death. As such, the main theme of the play could be argued to be the fear of death.
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Allen also uses the act of a character playing a game of gin rummy with Death to symbolize how people may try to negotiate or do everything they can to live. Although many people may feel uncomfortable when discussing death, Allen approaches this topic from a new perspective. For example, he alters his reader’s view about death – something that no one can control – by using the character Nat to show the ability for others to cheat Death fair and square through a game of gin rummy. Allen also addresses this topic humorously and lightly by casting the role of death itself into his play and gives Death a relatable personality that audiences can relate to.
Death is given a witty and relatable personality that is similar to a human’s which allows Nat the ability to view Death as being less superior to her. This makes it is easier for Nat to negotiate a way out of going with Death and gaining an extra twenty-four hours by playing a round of gin rummy (Allen, 15). This also allows Nat to have the courage to ask Death the basic question(s) about what it’s like on “the other side” and what will happen once Nat goes there and how it will happen (Allen 13). This insight about the characters gives the audience the ability to further understand the theme behind the play by using a formalist critique.
Additionally, this portrayal of Death allows the audience to believe how Death can easily be manipulated after Nat wins the game which results in allowing Nat to live for an extra twenty-four hours. Thus, by having Death enter with the upper hand and exiting with the lower hand, Allen illustrates the importance of taking the time to embrace the humorous perspectives in life rather than focusing all energy on the drama (Allen 23). The mockery shared amongst the two is both supple and cheery. They playback and forth with one another such that the dialogue itself ends up seeming like a game itself. In the end, Nat remains questioning whether the death was just messing with him or whether he had just earned more than 24 hours to his.
In conclusion, it can be noted that this short play represents the author’s, Woody Allen, denial of the existence of death, waving it off and not agreeing to come to terms with it. The play shows Allen attempting to bring himself to understand the meaning of death. Nat and death play a game of grin rummy just so that she can get an extra 24 hours of life (Allen 15). According to the play, death is presented in a variety of realities; there exists no right time to die, death is not always what we think it to be, and death is not the same for everyone.
In conclusion, Woody Allen’s play, “Death Knocks,” explores the theme of the fear of death and the lengths people will go to avoid it. Through the character of Nat and her game of gin rummy with Death, Allen challenges our traditional views of death and presents it in a humorous and relatable manner. By portraying Death as a witty and cheery personality, Allen highlights the importance of embracing the humorous perspectives in life. Overall, the play serves as a thought-provoking piece on the subject of death and encourages readers to re-evaluate their perceptions of it.
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