The environment that we live in can shape or change a person’s personality to who theybecome. This is one of the depictions in the one act play “Am I Blue,” written by Beth Henley.
This play illustrates the two main characters, John Polk Richard and Ashbe Williams, of havingvery different influences and very different personalities, however their different personalitiescome together, and they realize how influenced they truly are by their surroundings and by eachother.
John Polk and Ashbe come from very different social structures. John Polk, who is ashy, square minded seventeen year old boy, attends college as a freshman and is also ina fraternity with his brother. Ashbe however, is a very outspoken, eccentric sixteen year old girl.
She a girl with horn rimmed glasses, and non-stop chitchat. She attends high school, and to Ashbe, having the right friends means acceptance in today’s world; However, she is considered an outcast worthy only of being teased and ridiculed by the very group by which she wants to be accepted. In comparison, John wants to be accepted by his fraternity brothers, however John doesnot want to experience rejection for thinking or acting against the crowd, and admits to Ashbethat it was his brother that convinced him into joining the fraternity. In contrast, Ashbe is a freespirited artistic individual, who believes in expressing individuality. Whether she is putting bluefood coloring in John Polk’s rum and coke, making paper hats, or stringing Cheerios together tomake a necklace, Ashbe expresses her own individuality, and by doing this she tries to show him how important being himself truly is, and bridges the loneliness which infuses them both.
John Polk and Ashbe also come from different families structures. John comes from avery tight knit family that owns their own soybean farm, and his father hopes he will attendbusiness school and help manage the family business. However, John wants to do something elsewith his life. When Ashbe asks him what dose he want to become, he stated “I don’t know. Iwanted to be a minister or something good, but I don’t even know if I believe in God”(1971).
John wants to be “a minister or something good.” However, his problems in life are breaking hisspirit and his belief in God disappears as he fills his life with immoral acts, like partying anddrinking in the fraternity. John also said “I never used to worry about being a failure. Now I thinkabout it all the time. It’s just I need to do something that’s … fulfilling”(1971). John does notbelieve managing the soybean farm is fulfilling. Even though he does not want to work on thefarm, John feels obligated into making his dad happy. In contrast, Ashbe comes from a brokenfamily and lives in a messy run down apartment with her father, who leaves her home alone. Shehas very little contact with her mother and sister that live in Atlanta, and expresses her lonelinesswith the creativity she learned from her mother. Ashbe tries to help John explore his ownambitions and not allow others to make his ambitions for him.
John is a custom to the fast life “of parties, booze, honking horns”(1962), and realizesthe adult world looms ahead, and concludes that life on the soybean farm is different fromfraternity life. He soon finds himself at a crossroads when his fraternity brothers get him a FrenchQuarter prostitute as an eighteenth birthday present so that he can become a man. He is verynervous and apprehensive about meeting her, and exercises poor judgment by saying “Oh, God, Ineed to get drunk”(1964). John resorts to drinking alcohol when he thinks about his problems,and drinks alcohol throughout the play to escape from his worries. In contrast, Ashbe is a social person, and she isn’t afraid to tell people the truth about themselves or the situation that theymight be in. Ashbe is quick to tell John Polk what she thought of him when they were arguing atAshbe’s house. She had called him a sheep for his life was already sketched out for him, evenbefore he was born, and when his father passes away he will inherit the family soy beam farm.
She also called him a sheep for following what his brother did and doing what his fraternityfriends want him to do. John Polk had too much influence from his family, thus creating hispersonality like a sheep’s. Ashbe also said in an argument with John, that he is only in thefraternity because it is expected of him. John then resents the comment, but moments later herealizes he is being normal. John stated “About me, you were right. I am a sheep, a normal one.
I’ve been trying to get out of it but I’m as big a sheep as ever”(line 1971). John knows he doeswhat others expect. He says he can not deny wanting to become normal. John does not want toexperience rejection for thinking or acting against the crowd. She wants him to be himself andnot try to fit in with everyone else. John soon after realizes Ashbe is right, and the so calledfraternity friends only set him up with the prostitute because it was cool thing to do. By JohnPolk not going to the prostitute, he shows how he cares for Ashbe and not what the fraternityguys think. For the first time, John Polk does not follow the crowd, and he decides to follow hisown heart.
http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/ms-writers/dir/henley_beth/Elizabeth Becker Henley was born May 8, 1952, in Jackson, Mississippi, the daughter of an attorney and an actress. Early on she dreamed of becoming an actress, and to that end she earned a B.F.A. at Southern Methodist University in 1974. While at SMU, she wrote her first play, the one-act Am I Blue, which was produced at SMU’s Margo Jones Theatre in 1973.