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"Happy Hour"

Reinforced by a context of narrative irony, "Happy Hour" presents numerous closely observed details about end-of-life family dynamics in an institutional setting. The irony is not laden with humor or smugness, rather taking on attributes of an absurdity that is, oddly enough, an attribute of stark institutional realities. The irony derives from a situation that has deprived the three members of the Williams family of the ability to control the quality of their experience. They go through motions that have about them an aspect of determined ritual rather than direct encounter with indeterminate experience.

At the Home, to which Vera drives her aged mother when she is "on the Cape" and to which her mother otherwise commutes on the "old folks' bus" (Baker 1), the Williamses function within a reality that, objectively speaking, is neither threatening nor particularly uncomfortable. Indeed, the narrator Vera declares herself "fond of the Home, which has a good reputation; I like to think that getting my father into it was a coup" (Baker 1-2). The Williamses have no particular family angst to work through--none of that you-never-loved-me-enough business; they are all adults. Yet the whole effect of the story is to portray an experience of virtually no real comfort and little enough family feeling. Because the body of the paterfamilias has betrayed him into Parkinson's disease, none of them can control or affect the determinism of an institutional reality that his condition has brought on them all and that continually and relentlessly controls what they do and how they operate.

But such ritual makes sense only in the self-contained universe of the Home. Otherwise what goes on there is, as Esslin states in his study of the theatre of the absurd, "out of harmony with reason or propriety; incongruous, unreasonable, illogical" (Esslin xix). Esslin further quotes the playwright Ionesco on the definition of the absurd as "devoid of purpose. ....

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"Happy Hour". (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:28, January 20, 2019, from