Maria Irene Fornes, The Conduct of Life

  • Tiffany Ana Lopez

Abstract

The Conduct of Life (1985) is one of Maria Irene Fornes’s most critically acclaimed plays. This work brings together issues of politics, gender, and sexuality to show how forms of national and domestic violence often exist in direct relationship to one another. The play centers on Orlando, a career military officer who interrogates and tortures prisoners at the command of an unseen fascist regime in an unspecified Latin American country. His goal is to steadily rise in military rank and obtain “maximum power.” In the opening scene, Orlando vows “to eliminate all obstacles,” including his wife and his own excessive “sexual passion.” Unapologetic, he graphically describes the torture he inflicts. Fornes’s purposefully disturbing dialogue illustrates the rapid pace at which Orlando becomes desensitized to the violence demanded by his military employment and his ensuing brutal treatment of the women in his home. Clearly obsessed with the power he gains from interrogation and torture, Orlando cannot separate the boundaries between military and domestic spaces. He kidnaps a homeless twelve-year-old girl named Nena and keeps her locked in the basement, where he methodically sexually abuses her. Fellow soldier and friend Alejo witnesses Orlando’s disturbing violent behaviors in both spaces. Yet, regardless of his revulsion to Orlando’s acts, he remains a passive bystander.

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Copyright information

© Alvina Quintana 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiffany Ana Lopez

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