An illusion is defined as, something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality whereas reality is defined as, a real thing or fact. We are first introduced to George and Martha, a couple whose verbally abusive relationship and disjointed sense of reality seems to be clear to the audience. We see a small peek into their illusion when they are constantly referring to the bit and the thing leaving the audience curious as to what they are talking about.
The illusion of George and Marthas imaginary child is then brought up once again when George talks about him to Honey and Nick. Initially in the statement George says that, There are very few things in this world that I am sure of¦national boundaries, the level of the ocean, political allegiances, practical morality¦ The list of things which George says that the is sure of are, in reality, very difficult to measure as they are constantly changing, therefore showing us that George is not really that sure of anything but lives in the illusion where he thinks that he does.
He then goes on to say, the one thing in this whole stinking world that I am sure of is my partnership, my chromosomological partnership in the¦creation of our¦blonde-eyed, blue haired¦son. There is an ever changing ambiguity with regards to the child as initially when mentioned, he seems real to the audience, but as the foundation of George and Marthas lie breaks, we start to see the truth behind the illusion. This is a key moment at which the audience begin to thee that it is all an illusion because George cannot get his facts right in the first place, mixing up eye and hair colour.
Martha then goes on to show the illusion even more when she contradicts Georges initiall statement and says, Our son does not have blue hair¦or blue eyes, for that matter. He has green eyes¦like me. The confusion as to what their son looks like leads us to believe that George and Martha have been leading a life of illusions for so long that their illusion is beginning to become their reality. Contextually, the names George and Martha were the names of George and Martha Washington.
Albie does this to show that we can view George and Martha as a symbolic representation of the American nation. In the 1960s, when the play was set, America had developed its own illusion as a nation of happiness and what we know as nuclear families who were seen as an image of the perfect American family. However, this illusion was gradually shattered as America was then faced with the Vietnam War, nuclear threats and the assassination of J. F. Kennedy, to name a few.
The illusion of a happy America was shattered and the faults in the system that lie beneath the surface were eventually shown to the world. This idea of the facade that America upheld is shown through the illusion of George and Marthas son which they also uphold. Both America and George and Martha come to terms with the problems that surface in the end, but we see both illusions eventually shattered. Nick and Honey are a young couple who have just moved to the university, and we see their perfect selves and happy relationship begin to fall apart when introduced to Martha and George.
Nick and Honey are seen to follow the socially conventional rules in order to present their relationship as one that is perfect. This is shown through Albies stage directions in which he allows for Nick and Honey to finish each others sentences, [snapping to] : Yes¦yes it was. They present themselves with this false facade in order to impress George and Martha, but in this opening Act, Albie suggests to us and foreshadows the eventual break down of what seems to be their perfect reality.
He does this when Martha tells the story of how her and George met and says, And along came George. Thats right. Who was young¦intelligent¦ and¦bushy-tailed, and¦sort of cute¦if you can imagine it¦ and for the audience, this story reminds us very much of Nick and Honey. After seeing the extreme verbal abuse of George and Marthas relationship, Albie is suggesting to us that history might repeat itself, leaving Nick and Honeys relationship to be shattered out of its perfect illusion and into their true reality, which we see later on in the play.