“The Water Laps Round Your Ankles in Any Case”

When first reading this play, I was naturally very lost in trying to figure out what to do with it. So I went researching on what others had to say. They didn’t help much, as everyone I found was really discussing the strangeness, the summary, and what the metaphoric play stood for (which I had sort of picked up on my own and assumed to be obvious interpretations). I wanted more, but after some time decided I had to come up with more on my own. (I’m really not the best researcher, though. Please don’t hold your findings against me)

I was surprised to notice that my research did not turn up anyone discussing the significance of the very last lines of the play: “When you’ve just stepped in you can’t tell what’s going to happen. The water laps round your ankles in any case.” I suppose I’m going to expose myself as a weirdo, but even before I had much grasp on what I just read, I could sense the weight of those words. Their great importance to the entire thing.

Ever the optimist, I didn’t really want to agree with the initial interpretation of this work: basically, the world will go to Hell if humans keep going the way we are. So when coming to Joan’s last lines, I concluded with the mindset that you never know what the future will bring, even as you get closer and closer to it, but you have to hope that it’ll be worth aiming for. I think they also brought attention to the idea that it’s quite impossible to really know whether to trust or not; circling back to the beginning with Harper feeding Joan lie after lie about the uncle’s nightly occupation.

Matthew Cheney’s observation of the play leaving audience with a lack of resolution (found: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/04/dystopia-on-stage-caryl-churchills-far-away) helped me to think even more deeply about my opinions of it. He says how this lack of resolution, among other things, gives a great sense of haunting. Personally, I wasn’t nearly so haunted as just plain confused to the point where I just wanted to put it down and get on with the rest of my life. I think this is because, from the beginning, the creepy aura of the play caused me to assume there would be no resolution to the direct conflicts, probably no reason for the conflicts given, the whole thing was going to be very ambiguous, and it would probably end on a pretty negative note. But I love how Alisa Solomon put this next point of mine: “We never learn what, exactly, the factions are fighting over, but the origins of the conflict are hardly the point. What matters are the acquiescence, willful ignorance, and moral failure that allow people to join in as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.” (Solomon) Isn’t that how we humans work naturally, sad as it is to say?

My political conclusion about this play? Churchill is, indeed, trying to expose the unspeakable wrong of war and human hatred. She is telling us that this is unacceptable, and if we do nothing, things will just get worse and worse until the end. The water that laps against your ankles, anyway, offers you the chance to make your choice. Will you stand for it? Or will you be like the others in the play, will you “accept it as the way things are, the new reality” (Cheney).

—–

Cheney, Matthew. “Dystopia on Stage: Caryl Churchill’s Far Away.” Tor.com. N.p., 14 Apr 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2012. <http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/04/dystopia-on-stage-caryl-churchills-far-away&gt;.

Solomon, Alisa. “When We Dread Awaken.” Village Voice. N.p., 12 Nov 2002. Web. 25 Feb. 2012. <http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-11-12/theater/when-we-dread-awaken/&gt;.

 

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