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The issue of poverty in Wallace Shawn's "The Fever"

I am often heavily influenced by plays that are very profound, and "The Fever", a monologue play by Wallace Shawn, is no exception. For me, this play highlighted how easily we become accustomed to our lives' surroundings, and how easily we take things for granted, without asking some of the most important underlying questions. In relation to this point, Shawn makes the problem of class exploitation in "The Fever" extremely clear. He explains the problem in words much more effectively than i can, and he states that awful work is given to the poor, so the wealthy do not have to do it (Shawn. 49).

The author's presentation of the problem in "The Fever" clearly shows that much thought went into the play's creation, and the insights that are apparent throughout the play have reinvigorated my own thoughts on the poor's role in modern day society. I believe that this play shows that exploitation is inherent to human civilization, and that there a two reasons for this; the bad prevail while the good are unwilling to chance the situation.

The comfort of righteous people and the various aspects of their nature mean that they are unwilling to help eradicate exploitation, and so it is our responsibility as much as the exploiters. I have often wondered what can be done to minimize exploitation between classes in society, but after reading this play i have been presented with a more realistic challenge - how should someone who prospers in life behave towards, and treat, the underclass? Shawn presents the issue in such a specific way that it is easy for the reader to understand and associate with the poor. This is presented when the speaker is judging whether or not he should give financial aid to an elderly poor woman who needs medical help. Obviously there is no easy answer to this problem, but i believe that this situation reveals the fact that being prosperous is not all about ability, and often luck, and as such the feeling of superiority should not come with prosperity.

In contrast, i still think that it is the prerogative of a free nation for anyone to achieve financial and social success and status if they are willing to put in the time and the effort. In this guise, i think that the play is directed towards people who have achieved and prospered, and have as such forgotten about poverty, which is a destination for many people through no fault of their own. This is due to many situations and quotes, such as the statement that being sympathetic towards the poor will not change anything (Shawn, 39).

Drawing upon themes that will be relevant for as long as human society exists, "The Fever" leaves a very big impression on me, and also a bad taste in my mouth. The honesty of the author in exploring this issue, which most would not touch upon, is worthy of the highest praise, and makes this play deserving of real attention.


Shawn, Wallace. The Fever. New York: Noonday Press, 1991.