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THE TRUTH

a play in four acts by Clyde Fitch
First performed in 1906

This analysis of The Silver King was originally published in The British and American Drama of Today. Barrett H. Clark. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915. pp. 253-7.

The Truth is probably Clyde Fitch's most consistent and best-sustained play. There is in it less of the amusingly irrelevant, and more study and observation of character than in even The Girl with the Green Eyes or The Climbers. The universality of theme, unity, and sincerity, is evidenced by the fact that the play has been successfully produced in England and in many [other] countries. Usually, Fitch was wont to rely on his instinct and upon some novel device independent of the integral action of the play -- like the scene in the Vatican in The Girl with the Green Eyes or on the deck of the steamer in The Stubbornness of Geraldine -- but in The Truth there is a conscious discarding of the non-essential.

Fitch's sense for externals is manifested [early in the play]:

MRS. LINDON: ... Becky! One of my oldest friends! One of my bridesmaids!
MAURA: What!
MRS. LINDON: No, she wasn't, but she might have been; she was my next choice if any one had backed out.

This is amusing, and it tells something of one character -- the speaker. It is a mot de caractère. Still, it tells nothing very deep or significant. Later on, Mrs. Lindon's character is developed, but there is nothing very startling or new that we learn of her. In the first act is there any distinct or notable bit of information given as to any of the characters? What of Becky herself?

As the play progresses, notice by what means the character of Becky is built up. Is it through situations, by dialogue, or through the conversation of others?

The lie has ever been a fruitful source of dramatic material: Ibsen has dramatized it in most of his social dramas; Henry Arthur Jones -- in The Liars and The Lie, and Maurice Donnay in The Free Woman -- have written effective pieces around men and women who lie to attain certain ends, and fail. Has this play of Fitch's points in common as to treatment with any of the plays here referred to? What is the dramatic, the "theatrical," essence of The Truth? How has the author extracted what is most interesting and appealing from his theme?

Fitch's words regarding underlying ideas in plays are peculiarly apt: "If you inculcate an idea into your play so much the better for your play and for you and for your audience.... It is sometimes better for you if it is hidden, but it must of course be integral..." Is Fitch's idea hidden? Is it integral?

The American habit [of the day] of bringing a play to a happy ending [was] a result of the intellectual youth of the country. The average audience [had] not yet come to the point where it [would] unflinchingly accept the logical consequences of a situation. Eugene Walter in The Easiest Way dared to draw his tragic play to its ruthless and only possible close, but he succeeded only in spite of this fact, by reason of deft craftmanship. No one objects to the happy ending of a happy play; the fault lies with the dramatist who begins with a situation and characters from which only evil or tragedy can come. Bernard Veiller's Within the Law and George Broadhurst's Bought and Paid For both began with interesting and serious problems, but each dramatist, either because he was incapable of sustained thinking and reasoning power -- which is unlikely -- escaped from his main theme, and allowed his play to drift on the current of amusing but utterly inconsequential circumstances.

If a dramatist introduces a certain character early in the play with the idea of changing the mind and spirit of that character, he must motivate each action and account for the character at the end of the play. If Ibsen wished to show Nora as a doll in the first act of A Doll's House, and a mature and thinking woman in the last, he must adduce convincing proofs of the metamorphosis. Henry Arthur Jones, in The Crusaders and Dolly Reforming Herself, ridicules the attempts of would-be reformers to accomplish their ends over-night, as it were: the "crusaders," in the one, and Dolly and her friends in the other, are sadder and wiser at last, but they are no nearer to reformation than when the curtain first rose. In Hermann Bahr's Das Konzert the philandering artist will, we are positive, continue to give "concerts" as long as he is so inclined; in Leo Dietrichstein's American version, called The Concert, the amiable pianist assures his wife that he will give no more concerts. Very often a dramatist will throw a sop to his exigent audience, but at the same time add a "tag" showing that the "lived happily ever after" is but the merest convention. Hubert Henry Davies The Mollusc is a case in question: Tom's words, which close the play, are: "Were those miracles permanent cures? (Shakes his head.) We're never told! We're never told!" This is legitimate, like the happy ending to a fairy-story, but when the inexorable logic of life demands truth, and the dramatist deliberately distorts the truth, the play is false.

Study carefully the last act of The Truth, determining exactly how genuine is Becky's "conversion," whether the author intended his audience to accept the dénouement, or whether he intended the closing lines to put the audience in a good humor. Notice, however, the extreme cleverness of the end:

BECKY: You can't forgive me!
WARDER: We don't love people because they are perfect.
(He takes her two trembling hands in his, and she rises.)
BECKY: Tom!
WARDER: We love them because they are themselves.

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