Arsenic and Old Lace Themes

Joseph Kesselring
This Study Guide consists of approximately 18 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Arsenic and Old Lace.
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Insanity/Madness

At the time that this play was written – 1941 – many people believed that if one member of a family was “mad”, there was an excellent chance that the rest of the family would be mad as well. This play uses this theme extensively, and takes it to the extreme by portraying every member of the Brewster family (and referring to previous generations) as being insane on one level or another. The single exception to this is Mortimer who, although he actually acts “crazier” in several scenes than any of the other characters in the play, is revealed at the end to be adopted. The audience is left with the idea that as he is not a Brewster, he is not insane.

The insanity in the Brewster family is portrayed on a number of levels ranging from Jonathan’s manically homicidal anger when the fact that he looks like...

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This section contains 498 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Arsenic and Old Lace Study Guide
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