When I teach this in a physical setting, I often freeze because I generally look at 18, 19, 20, or 21-year-old faces and superimpose Claras fear, betrayal, desperation on them. Being cavalier or dispassionate about her state just cannot work. This was her first and perhaps only love — a consuming and passionate love that resulted in her love child. It is this application that restricts my ability to see humor in this tragi-comedy. My problem, not yours. But do you see that we bring our experiences and hearts to challenges?
The love child dies. Claras attachment to her lover remains, but in a different form. She parlays her body and people skills into a vast fortune. She is the judge and jury and metes out retributions against those who injured her. She is Justice.
Clara (and then Claire) knows the right turn of the screw. Both . Her motives and plans are definitive and clear. The name Clara is more connected to a peasant world and the second with a classic one. Money buys her status and protection. She can even stop a train when she wishes. That is just it. With money she chooses what she wants to do. Without it, she once could not and the residents cannot. Both she and the residents sell themselves.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. – Lord Acton
Her body, that had experienced the ecstasy of love, becomes her punishment in liaison after liaison. Barren sex has no life force. Yes, wealth results and her fixation on retribution abounds. Once the latter is attained, what is her life purpose? Is walking on Schills grave sufficient?
It is quite easy to paint oppositions in 180 degree landscapes. People are not like that. Clara is not likeable. Schill has the superficial likeability of people who manipulate people. People gravitate to Claire only for personal gain. People toss aside Schill because he is a money conduit and convenient scapegoat. He must account for his grave sin, albeit assigned decades after the fact. His atonement is sought and gained. The sinner dies to erase the sin debt of the town. It is a malevolent view of the sinless Christs crucifixion. But remember that this play is in response to the unabated horrors of a grievously fallen world, WWII.
Taking the long view, would Clara still have made a negative impact if the residents of the sewer had not discharged the pregnant teen from their midst? Likely so.
See how their revisionist view of history allows the townspeople to reframe their surface character. Autocratic governments and corporations do this.
See how quickly the town turns when just the right pressure is applied.
BTW. Claire had Kobby and Lobby castrated. Read the passage again. It is their punishment as well as a set up metaphor for the townspeople. Blindness works for both, too.
And, to end with a favorite quote not of this time and place, Do not insult the mother alligator until you have crossed the river.Thats Claire.
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