Love on the Stage, War on the Page: Evaluating the Role of War Trauma in How I Learned to Drive

Deborah Hull


Psychological traumas surface in Paula Vogel’s portrayal of Li’l Bit and Uncle Peck in How I Learned to Drive (1997). Theorizing Peck’s fixation on Li’l Bit is necessitated by his drive to recapture his innocence—an innocence he lost as a young man during WWII—this thesis will seek to explain how Drive can be viewed as a love story by revealing the motivations behind Li’l Bit’s sympathy for Uncle Peck. Recognizing war trauma as the fundamental catalyst for both the action and the tone of the play situates Drive in a territory not yet explored. Furthermore, this thesis will explore the dubious relationship between war-traumatized veterans and pedophilic tendencies by examining this theme in other literature, particularly, J.D. Salinger’s “For Esmé—with Love and Squalor” (1950) and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1955), thus, placing Drive at the nexus in which American drama and war literature coalesce.