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“A Solid Home” by Elena Garro

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In “A Solid Home”, Garro creates a distinct world to house the story of his play. The play revolves around a deceased family buried together in a tomb and their contemplation of life and death and the purpose of their existence. This story would only work when presented in a specific atmosphere/ theatrical world. In order to generate this rich environment Garro uses vivid imagery and a distinct setting.

This nine page, one-act play explores the afterlife as a group of eight deceased family members ponders their status and the purpose of their existence. Together in their common plot, these characters speak to one another about life beyond the grave. They describe their existence in a way that is sometimes shocking, other times funny, but is always vivid. More than anything else it is this imagery that creates that world and coveys the meaning of the play.

The beautiful imagery is used foremost as they discus the memories of their earthly lives. The character allow the audience to become a part of their vibrant past, however, because most of this dialogue is in past tense, it is important to the atmosphere of the play because it creates the sense that they’re removed from their life. There is push-pull formed by the stories told: the characters and their lives become more real and tangible to the audience, but at the same time there is a distinct separation in imagery which allows us to realize that this life was in the past. A good example of this comes from Vincent Mejia.

He reveals Mama Jessie’ love of dancing through an anecdote saying “[t]he only thing you like was to dance polkas! (He hums a tune and dance a few steps) Do you remember how we danced at that carnival?” (Garro, 3). However, he doesn’t stop there, he allows the audience, and himself, to relive the moment; he continues with “[y]our pink dress spun around and around, and your neck was very close to my lips”(Garro3). Nonetheless, Garro doesn’t ever allow us to “live” for very long, in fact in the very next line we are pulled back to reality when Mama Jessie replies “[f]or heaven’s sake, cousin Vincent! Don’t remind me of those foolish things” (Garro, 3)

More importantly imagery also creates the tone for the play. Much of the play is dark and somewhat sad, however Garro’s purpose for writing this work is not conveyed in those moments. The heart of her work lies near the end of the play when the characters relate the options death has opened for them. “Now your house is the center of the sun, the heart of every star, the root of all the grasses, the most solid point of every stone” (Garro, 8) This gives the afterlife a sense of hope and freedom. In addition, these descriptions serve another important purpose; it provides comic relief for what would otherwise be an intense and somewhat morbid plot. For example the various family members “remains” are in differing degrees of decay:

DON CLEMENT: For pity’s sake, now I can’t find my femur! . . . .

VINCENT MEJA: I saw Katie using it for a trumpet. (Garro, 2).

Similarly Dona Gertrude explains “I don’t know clement. My broken clavicle got lost… And it was my favorite bone” (Garro, 2).

Additionally, environment and setting play an important role in the effective creation of A Solid Home. The setting is unnatural “There are neither windows nor doors” and “The stage is very dark” (Garro, 1). From this initial scene there is already a distinct feeling that the play’s action is taking place in an unusual setting. There seems to be no way to move in and out of the space. Off the bat this establishes the idea that the characters and interaction we are about to see are separate or divided from the rest of the world. Furthermore, the lack of a light source generates unsettling feeling because as human beings we need light to function.

The “small room with stone wall and ceiling” (Garro, 1) make the tomb setting all the more prevalent. The only time light is shed on stage is when Lydia, the new comer, joins the others inside the tomb. However, after she has made the transition darkness regains dominance over the space; stasis is maintained. This setting clearly establishes the world of the play as well as the conditions under which this world can be changed. The most important aspect though, is that this change, this bringing in of light, is only temporary. Ultimately death is death, it cannot be escaped, however it is not confining. We see how free and releasing the afterlife can be when, in the end, the characters are able to disappear from the stage without the use of portals like doors and windows.

Although Garro employs a number of tools to build the perfect world for her play to exist in, I believe the most important, and most masterfully used, of these are environment and imagery.

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