The Heidi Chronicles: Monologue & Characters

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Virginia has a Master's degree in Curriculum and Development and a Ph.D. in English

'The Heidi Chronicles' is a Pulitzer Prize winning 1988 play by Wendy Wasserstein. This lesson will discuss the play's characters and the use of monologues as a dramatic device.

About the Play

Wendy Wasserstein's play in two acts titled The Heidi Chronicles tells the story of one young woman's journey through the changing times of the Women's Movement in America. Heidi Holland, the title character, is an art historian who achieves recognition as an author and professor. Heidi is representative of a generation of baby boomers who lived their childhoods in the fifties, teen years in the sixties, and ultimately found adult identity in the eighties.

The play won a Pulitzer Prize in Literature in 1989. Though the story now seems a bit dated to contemporary readers, at the time of publication and early performance, audiences found the plot timely and insightful.

Key Characters

Heidi Holland

The main character is Heidi Holland, whose mission is to awaken the art world to the contributions of female artists. This is her primary connection to the changes taking place in the role of women during her early life and into adulthood.

History of Women in Art
painting

Peter Patrone

Chronologically, the high school Heidi is the first version we meet. At a high school dance, the quiet wallflower Heidi meets Peter Patrone, who becomes her best friend. Though he isn't a romantic interest, Peter remains in the story until the end. As a friend and confidante, the gay man serves as a literary foil for another key character, Scoop Rosenbaum.

Scoop Rosenbaum

Scoop enters the picture in Heidi's college years, when they meet at a McCarthy rally. The year is 1968, and the arrogant and assertive Scoop wins Heidi's attention (and her virginity) after a brief but lively conversation. Throughout the play, Scoop appears in and out of Heidi's adult life. He marries and has children, while also having a series of affairs. The chemistry the two have remains, though as adults they both realize that they wouldn't have been good for each other.

Changing Times
McCarthy poster

Susan Johnston

Susan Johnston also comes in and out of Heidi's life, staying in touch with her friend's growing career and lack of love life. Susan, at one point a member of a women's collective and at another a television producer, represents this generation's independent career woman with the freedom to change with each new opportunity. Heidi actually has the same freedom, being unmarried and childless, but never seems to embrace the role like Susan does.

Lisa

Finally, other female characters are introduced as participants in the events of Heidi's life stages. Portraying another type of female role is Lisa, Scoop's wife, a mother and writer of popular children's books. On the surface, we may at first think she has managed to ''have it all''. Yet, Scoop cheats on her with various women and never gives her his complete involvement as a partner.

Monologues

The play begins with a monologue delivered by the successful art historian Heidi. The effect of this device is that we see her ability and charisma before we meet the shy teenaged Heidi. In this sense, the audience has a secret insight into the possibilities awaiting the title character and the difficult decisions engendered by the changing roles of women.

Act Two opens with a similar monologue: Dr. Holland at Columbia University delivering a lecture on women in art. The effect of this monologue is to remind the audience that Heidi's life is constantly divided into the personal and the professional. Which one is the real Heidi? It isn't easy to say, neither for the audience nor for Heidi herself.

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