The Mixup in a Wife about Coldness & Warmth—with discussion of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars

By Anne Fielding

Sean O'CaseyIn this paper from a public seminar I tell of myself as woman and wife; the change in a wife having Aesthetic Realism consultations; and a wife in a notable drama. 

Here is a wife speaking to her husband in an Irish play of 1926:

I’m longin’ to show you me new hat, to see what you think of  it. Would you like to see it?  [A knock is heard at the door.]
Take no notice of it, Jack. Don’t break our happiness. Pretend we’re not in. Let us forget everything tonight but our own two selves. Please, Jack, don’t open it. Please, for your own little Nora’s sake!

This is Nora Clitheroe in Sean O’Casey’s The Plough & the Stars, a wife very much in a mixup about warmth and coldness.

In a lecture Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, gave on the subject of imagination, he noted that Nora is a woman who wants the close presence of  the man who said he loved her. In this scene, she’s intense, heated, but what is she warm about—having her husband praise her new hat, and keeping other people out.

Warmth, to Nora, means having this man exclusively hers, devoted, protecting her from a world and people she sees as cold and mean.  She’s against his passionate desire to fight for Irish freedom, insisting he stay home and pay homage to her.

Nora’s situation is dramatic, but she’s very representative, because many a wife—not in a play, but in real life—has felt marriage was a time to “forget everything but our own two selves,” been angry at her husband’s interests outside the home, and not understood why there came to be such painful coldness and anger between them.

In an issue of the journal The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be KnownEllen Reiss, the Chairman of Education, has sentences that show what’s at the heart of this mixup:

Coolness and warmth are ethical opposites. What we are warm to and what we are cool to determine how just a person we are. Aesthetic Realism shows that our purpose in being close to a person should be to like the world  itself. And if two people are “warm” to each other for the purpose of getting away from the world and of making themselves superior to the world, they will feel profoundly betrayed by each other.  And there will come to be a deep anger and coldness between them.

This is what Mrs. Darcy Banks had experienced, as she told us in an Aesthetic Realism consultation. Her husband Thomas, she said, was often irritated with her, and, she said, “My marriage is a hotbed of disappointment and resentment—I need to understand why”…Read more

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