Maria Irene Fornes illuminates the relations between people living in a dire economic state. The play opens with dialogue between Mae and Lloyd and immediately sets an atmosphere of strife. I find this particularly noteworthy for a number of reasons.
Lloyd: What’s arithmetic?
Mae: It’s numbers.
Lloyd: Why didn’t you say it’s numbers–I know numbers.
Mae: You don’t know numbers.
Lloyd: Yes I do [he stands.] I’m Lloyd. I have two pigs. My mother died. I was seven. My father left. He is dead. [He gets three coins from his pocket.] This is my money. It’s mine. It’s three nickels. I’m Lloyd. That’s arithmetic.
This particular section illuminates a few things. The first being the fact that Mae is getting an education while it can be assumed that Lloyd did not. The reader can tell this because Lloyd cannot identify the act of counting as arithmetic,even though he can count. Lloyd represents a typical person who lives in poverty often having a lack of education. Though even though Lloyd is presented as generally uneducated, he has enough education to function in society.
Though when Lloyd explains arithmetic through his understanding of it, he highlights a few issues faced by people living in poverty, principally a dysfunctional family. These dysfunctionalities range from absentee fathers to shortages, however having a deceased parent can be exempted from the latter. As Lloyd demonstrates his understanding of Arithmetic, he provides what (or who) has been subtracted from his life along with the little he has in his life. Therefore, Fornes may be arguing that poverty is a result of a number of sociological factors, lack of education, potentially due to growing up in a dysfunctional home.
Moreover, I sense a lack of security in the household.
Mae: Fuck You
Lloyd: You’re a whore.
Mae: I’m pressing jerk! What are you doing! I’m pressing! What are you doing! [He looks away]. I’m pressing what are you doing! You’re a jerk. [she continues ironing.] I work. See, I work. I’m working. I learned to work. I wake up and I do work. Open my eyes and i work. I work . What do you do! Yeah, what do you do!–Work!
Lloyd: So what! [he sits in a corner on the floor]
This scene illuminates another theme of poverty, which is the will or ability to work. The two characters speak to each other in an antagonistic way, yet it is really difficult to decipher whether this has an impact. Fornes uses these two characters to highlight the idea of unemployment. People who live in poverty are usually unemployed because they lack the skillset the modern economy requires. These people, who lack the skillset, are usually unemployed. Mae treats Lloyd as if he were a louse and did not want to work. Mae asks him what he does. Fornes uses exclamations instead of conventional question marks. This is because Mae is rhetorical in a way that is accusing and belittling. She downgrades Lloyd like modern society does. Arguably, attitudes towards the unemployed are like this because there is the belief that work is available for everyone, and those who live in poverty choose not to work or are otherwise lazy. This is especially true with Politicians. However, I believe that modern economy is overly efficient and not everyone needs to work. Additionally, not everyone possesses the psychological ability to function in a modern workforce, taking into the many dysfunctionalities of Lloyd’s situation.