投影片 1

John Guare (b. 1938)
Six Degrees of Separation (1993)
Cecilia H. C. Liu
About the author
Literary Allusions
Discussion Questions
Works Cited
Cecilia H. C. Liu
John Guare (b. 1938)
Guare's freewheeling, satirical plays are the
antithesis of “kitchen sink” naturalism, with
darkly comic situations sometimes veering into
violence. Frequently dealing with family
relationships and people seeking escape from
their daily lives, they flout dramatic conventions
with such devices as monologues, asides, songs,
and pantomime.
Six Degrees of Separation, produced by the
Lincoln Center Theater, won the 1990 New York
Drama Critics Circle Award, the Hull-Warriner
Award and the Obie Award as Best Play.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Manhattan art dealers Ouisa and Flan Kittredge
open their gilded penthouse doors to Paul, a
charismatic young man who’s been stabbed and
mugged in Central Park. Claiming to be a friend of
their children — and the son of Sidney Poitier –
Paul enchants his hosts with intoxicating stories
and tantalizing gourmet dishes. But as Paul’s web
of dropped names and near fame begins to unravel,
he provides his hosts with much more than just the
ultimate anecdote for good cocktail conversation–
he sets in motion a series of events that will alter
the course of their lives forever.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
The title
“Six Degrees of Separation” is the unproven theory
that anyone on the planet can be connected to any
other person on the planet through a chain of
acquaintances that has no more than five
The title is meant to suggest that everyone on the
planet is linked to everyone else by a chain of
acquaintances no more than six people long -- a
notion plausible only to a socialite living on the
Upper East Side.
Guare expounds upon the uses of the imagination,
liberal hypocrisy and even the violent subtext of The
Catcher in the Rye.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Flan Kittredge
Flan Kittredge: an art broker who puts
together ad hoc partnerships to buy secondtier works by modern masters (Cézanne,
Matisse) that he quickly resells, to the
Japanese currently, in order to realize huge
profits, all without putting up any money
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Ouisa Kittredge
Ouisa is charming and imaginative and self-aware, yet still in
need of redemption. And she’s capable of redemption.
Ouisa is the focus because she’s despondent about the lack of
meaningful structure in her life. She sees herself as "a collage
of unaccounted-for brush strokes," "all random," and when
Flan declares himself a gamesman she says, "We’re a terrible
match," before, in the movie, walking out on his latest pitch at
a society matron’s luncheon. (She walks out of the luncheon
though not necessarily out of his life, but still, Flan is more of
a Torvald than any other character in Guare’s plays.) At the
climax Guare gives Ouisa a speech about not becoming
"human jukeboxes spilling out these anecdotes" as she and
Flan have been for the entire length of the play, and that
speech does state something like the kernel of the
playwright’s intended meaning.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
The Secondary Art Market
The Kittredges have three children away at
school so they’re free to pursue Flan’s deals,
which take them to society weddings and
christenings, museum galas, luncheons, and
such. This lucrative secondary art market
has paid for a sumptuous lookout of an
apartment on New York’s upper east side.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
A gifted scoundrel, Paul soon wins over the
Kittredges by admiring their two-sided Kandinsky.
One side represents chaos, the other control; the
scene determines which side is facing the room.
Paul then wangles an invitation to stay overnight
after he whips up a gourmet dinner for the
Kittredges and their guest, a South African
financier, who is so impressed with the young man
that he starts planning an Afro-American film
festival on the spot.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Paul’s Role
A Connector—humanity/human condition
It is Paul who connects the six right people together.
He is the one who leads them to look into their own
family, and urges them, by accident, to find their
true and new selves. Paul unites six degrees of
 A Test: Paul functions as a test to all the characters
in the play/film. People can be easily deceived by
the charisma he represents. However, Ouisa sees
Paul as a human, not just an anecdote, a case, an
event “to dine out on” (Guare 117).
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Actor and Acting
An actor, Paul has no real identity. He can act
anybody. Paul creates a whole new identity as a son
of an artist who belongs to the upper class for
himself. And that is what most people want to
become—famous, educated, rich, with some
prestigious family background.
Yet, those art dealers are not artists, and they are
fond of being a cat in the movie of Cats because
this could make them feel more like an artist (actor).
Therefore, in a sense, they do have the same
thought as Paul does, and Paul becomes the person
who could help them fulfill their dreams.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Interpersonal relationship
In Six Degrees of Separation, the interpersonal
relationship calls our attention, especially the
relationships and the reactions between the main
character Paul and all the other characters. Paul is
actually a con man from low class who tries to forget
his own identity, to get rid of his own miserable life,
and to assume another imagined identity.
So ironic is that Paul whom they call a liar is the one
who connects the six people together, but they are not
sure if Paul really exists at all. So who/what is Paul?
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Painting and Colors—Art and Life
Flan Kittredge has this dream about painting and
colors (45-46). Potential and creativity are very
much embedded in each individual being—such
as in a child—but when we grow up, we gradually
lose our originality and creativity. Numbness,
indifference and spiritual paralysis by and by grasp
people in the materialistic society. There are at
least two sides to view everything in our life. As
the double-sided Kandinsky painting shows,
examples of “chaos and control”—originality and
imitation, disorder and form/structure, nightmare
and dream—can be found in our daily life
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Themes: Chaos, Control
Flan and Ouisa’s prize possession is a Kandinsky
painted on both sides of the canvas, in contrasting
styles, one "somber and geometric," as Flan
points out, and the other a wash of lines and
shapes and colors barely holding together in an
Flan spins the painting for Geoffrey as Ouisa
explains the connected meanings, "Chaos, control.
Chaos, control," a turn of phrase Guare wrote for
the movie and which sums up the tension in the
entire piece.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Kandinsky’s Order and Chaos
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Chaos, Control
What Ouisa discovers by the end is that if the
"control" that governs her life as Flan’s
helpmeet can’t accommodate a random but
intense incursion like Paul’s, then the control
isn’t meaningful, and thus isn’t control at all but
chaos which passes for control by numbing her
to the reality of the life they’re leading. Paul
opens Ouisa up to this awareness even as he
unintentionally but by the same means drives a
wedge between her and Flan.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Chaos, Control
Flan calls himself a gambler but can deal with
uncertainty only as long as he’s sure of the
game he’s playing. The new idea of control
that Ouisa envisions (training Paul as their
apprentice, taking him permanently into their
lives) seems to Flan, stuck in their previous
outlook, as itself a kind of chaos. And it isn’t
a question of their needing to break through
class snobbery or racism, but, rather, rigidity
and reluctance--the great inhibitors of
Cecilia H. C. Liu
“God’s Gift—the Imagination”
Paul states:
“…the imagination is the passport we
create to take us into the real world. I
believe the imagination is another
phrase for what is most uniquely
us. …most of the time the faces we
face are not the other guy’s but our own
faces. And it’s the worst kind of
yellowness to be so scared of yourself
you put blindfolds on rather than deal
with yourself…. To face ourselves.
That's the hard thing. The imagination.
That’s God's gift to make the act of
self-examination bearable.” (34)
Cecilia H. C. Liu
The imagination
is the place
we are all trying
to get to.
What imagination Paul refers to?
Yet, what kind of imagination does Paul mean?
Does Paul “face” himself ? What has he done with
“God’s gift”? In Paul’s talk, he also brings forth
Holden in Catcher in the Rye. How is the novel
related to the action of the play? As Paul says in
the play that Catcher in the Rye is “a touching story,
comic because the boy wants to do so much and
can’t do anything. Hates all phoniness and only lies
to others. Wants everyone to like him, is only
hateful, and is completely self-involved” (Guare 3233). How do you find this statement exactly
pictures Paul himself ?
Cecilia H. C. Liu
hidden desire aroused
Paul becomes increasingly absorbed by the role he
plays, which leads to an inappropriately lurid turn
that includes homosexual seduction, grand larceny
and a lover's suicide.
To the young man Rick who commits suicide, Paul
could also represent one part of his mind. Paul
arouses Rick's wanting of some changes and new
experiences. Except that part (or an awareness of
his hidden desire) can be so destructive that
eventually brings an end to his own life.
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Literary Allusions
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
A Doll House by Henri Ibsen
Art and Artist
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Discussion Questions
1. What motifs do you find in the play?
2. What kind of imagination does Paul mean? Does
Paul “face” himself? What has he done with
“God’s gift”? In Paul’s talk, he also brings forth
Holden in Catcher in the Rye. How is the novel
related to the action of the play?
3. Comment on the parent-children relationship and
the children in Guare’s play.
4. As Paul states in the play: “Catcher in the Rye is
a touching story. Comic because the boy wants to
do so much and can’t do anything. Hates all
phoniness and only lies to others. Wants everyone
to like him, is only hateful, and is completely selfinvolved” (32-33). How do you find this
statement exactly pictures Paul himself?
Cecilia H. C. Liu
Works Cited
“Chaos, Control.” Review of Six Degrees of
Separation. 2 June 2005
Guare, John. Six Degrees
of Separation. New York:
Random House, 1990.
Kempley, Rita. Review of Six Degrees of Separation. 2 June
Cecilia H. C. Liu