Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Joanna Murray-Smith, Bombshells (2001)

Joanna Murray-Smith’s play Bombshells (2001) sympathetically explores what the writer believes to be the stresses and strains of existence that burden modern women.  It is a play about women’s liberation.  It depicts woman as caught in circumstances that compromise their liberty, sense of identity and chances for fulfilment in life.  The play blames the still formidable residues of a patriarchal society that endure in the ‘post-feminist era’, especially in the institution of marriage, as well as in regards to the high demands placed on women and the high expectations women place on themselves when capitalising on the freedoms won for them by the campaigns of the second-wave of feminism of the 1960s and 1970s.  According to the play, while much has been achieved, the feminist revolution is far from over.  According to the play, women are not fully liberated, seemingly caught in a trap of pre-feminist and post-feminist constraints and expectations. 

While the theatre audience, especially the woman in it, are invited to empathise with the suffering of the play’s six female characters (Meryl, Tiggy, Mary, Theresa, Winsome, and Zoe) who are at pivotal stages in their lives, they are also encouraged to draw inspiration.  They are positioned to find in these characters inspiring examples of achieving an increased consciousness regarding the nature of their predicament, as well as be inspired by their examples of resilience, defiance, survival, and renewal. 

Meryl Louise Davenport, who is in her thirties, gets through her gruelling routine and the multiple demands of being a wife and mother with perseverance and humour.  Tiggy Entwhistle endures the heartbreak that resulted from being dumped by her husband for a younger woman with the belief that, like a cactus plant, she will bloom again.  Mary O’Donnell, a teenager hoping to become a star entertainer, endures with resilience the pressures of the competitive world of entertainment and its sexualised stereotypes, a scene that brings out the worst bitchiness in women.  Theresa McTerry achieves a defining sense of consciousness on her wedding day about her unfortunate predicament as a bride, although she is yet to translate that consciousness into liberating action.  The widow Winsome Webster has learned to seize the moment and reclaim her sexuality in a society that does not value it.  Meanwhile, the aging singer Zoe Struthers has endured a hard life of injustice and disappointment at the hands of men.  She sings defiantly about how she expects, or demands, to be treated by men and how she will not define her existence, identity, or source of happiness in terms of her relationships with men.  She has been able to survive so much hardship in her life and still remain defiantly optimistic and dignified.  The message to the women in the theatre audience is that they too can do this. 

While communicating these messages, the playwright is particularly concerned about the institution of marriage, depicting it as a trap that many women willingly enter, thereby compromising their liberty, identity, and sense of fulfilment in life.  Consequently, the play urges women to define their own sense of self, and self-worth, and to free themselves from institutions that serve the interests of men at the expense of the interests of women. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2021 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Bombshells meaning, Bombshells themes, Bombshells analysis,  Bombshells notes