The Letterbox

The Letterbox Essay By Lori Provan “The Letterbox” By Ann Marie Di Mambro is a dramatic monologue which discusses the theme of domestic violence. This essay will look at how the author uses a wide range of intense techniques to explore the theme. In “The Letterbox” housewife, Martha, has to suffer with her ruthless husband. Having been thrown out, Martha is slouched on a landing of her own flat. Throughout the monologue, she speaks to her young daughter, Wendy, through the letterbox. During their conversation only Martha can be heard.
We can hear that she makes many unacceptable excuses to her young daughter made by the victims of domestic abuse. Her parenting skills are being questioned because of her instructions that are putting young Wendy under a lot of pressure. This essay will examine the following: how significant the title is; the fact that the monologue is distributed into two separate sections about Martha’s different excuses for her husband’s behaviour; the fact that the dramatic monologue is framed by the brief appearance of a young couple whose response to Martha’s situation makes it quite clear of theirs and the public’s intolerance.
Also, Martha’s conversation with Wendy raises questions about the lesson she is teaching Wendy for her future life. The title of this dramatic monologue is successful as it gives nothing away about the play. A letterbox was designed to deliver messages or letters in and out of the outer world. Martha is sending messages to Wendy from outside of the flat. These messages are loaded with the significance about the difficulties of adult relations of which Wendy is far too young to understand. Therefore “The Letterbox” is an effective title because we understand that domestic violence is hidden of not fully understood.

Besides this, a supplementary way the author deals with domestic violence is through Martha’s shameful excuses for her husband’s disgraceful behaviour. To express this, Martha feeds Wendy many of these unacceptable excuses throughout the monologue. Martha is in an unpleasant situation as she tries to reassure Wendy that everything will turn out to be adequate. What makes this unacceptable is that this may lead Wendy to a violent future. When Martha tries to reassure Wendy and tells her not to it bother her, Martha starts to make unacceptable excuses. The author uses a range of irony in this paragraph.
An illustration of this is “Just tickling me – that’s right, tickling. ” for “fun”. The stage direction: “Wincing. Spits in her hanky moves her jaw around, feels inside her mouth. ” Explains that she has been hurt earlier in the day. Martha also threatens her poor daughter that she will be taken away if the tells anyone about what is happening at home at a regular occurrence. Even though we cannot hear Wendy’s response during the dramatic monologue, we can only guess that Wendy is suggesting sensible solutions. We know this from Martha’s negative responses “No, no don’t wake him” and “No matter where we went, he’d only find us. In summary, Martha’s variety of unacceptable excuses has a large negative influence of Wendy’s future life. Over and above this, an additional way Ann Marie Di Mambro explores the theme of mistreatment is with the brief appearance of a young couple named Jack and Jill. The author uses the technique of dramatic irony to show the harsh words of society. Dramatic irony is when the audience or character knows something the other character is unaware of. When Jack and Jill approach Martha, slumped outside her flat, they automatically assume that she is a drug abuser or alcohol abuser. This is what a large part of society would judge Martha as.
The stage directions “Jack puts his arm protectively around Jill” suggest that Jack is a very stereotypical man. Jack also refers to Martha as being “Pissed! ” Jack and Jill’s names contrasts with Martha’s plight as the nursery rhyme seems innocent but there is an undercurrence of violence, but nowhere as near as brutal as Martha’s non innocent story. Therefore the brief appearance of Jack and Jill explains a large part of the large part of the stereotypical society we live in today. Furthermore, another way the author highlights the theme of inhuman treatment is through Martha’s conversation with Wendy, and the fact that some of her onversation with her daughter raises moral questions about the lessons she is teaching Wendy for the future. Throughout “The Letterbox” Martha teaches many outrageous lessons to Wendy. For instance, Martha explains to Wendy that the way her brutal husband behaves is acceptable and that all men do it. The quote, “It’s just the way men are” shows objectionable parenting skills, as only a small fraction of today’s male population act violently towards their loved ones. However, the large majority of the population do not act in this manner. At the end of the play Martha sings Wendy a bedtime lullaby.
The simple four lined song is adaptable and poignant. There are three symbols in this song. Light, darkness and sleep. “Light” is to signify hope, that the light of their lives are fragile and can be easily extinguished. “Darkness” is to represent despair, sorrow, trouble and hatred. Darkness is very effective as it contrasts light and dark to those who do not endure domestic violence with those who are victims. Lastly, the word “sleep” symbolises bringing an end to the day and all the terrible events that have happened. Sleep also symbolises a new day, but also foreshadows that the cycle of misery and violence may start all over again.
In conclusion, Martha’s parenting skills have been questioned negatively and the author’s technique of “symbolism” and “dramatic irony” demonstrate this perfectly. In summary, Ann Marie Di Mambro has successfully explored topics such as the significance of the title, the different excuses Martha and other victims of domestic abuse use, how Jack and Jill are used to frame the play and to characterize society’s attitude to the victims; and the way that Martha speaks to Wendy which raises moral questions about her parenting skills, while Mambro talks powerfully about the theme of domestic violence.
I have learnt many valuable lessons whilst studying this dramatic monologue. I have learnt that the theme of domestic violence in typical households is most undoubtedly kept a secret from the outside world. I have realised that the author is trying to say that domestic violence is hidden or not fully understood and that cruelty and injustice of domestic violence is intolerable.

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