"It's Just That For The First Time, I Feel... Wicked": A Rhetorical Analysis of Wicked's Elphaba Using Kenneth Burke's Guilt-Purification-Redemption Cycle
School of Communication and Digital Content
Master of Arts in Communication (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Theater; Psychology, General; Music; Literature, General; Language, General
Communication | Critical and Cultural Studies | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Music Performance | Rhetoric and Composition | Theatre and Performance Studies
Foreman, Patricia, ""It's Just That For The First Time, I Feel... Wicked": A Rhetorical Analysis of Wicked's Elphaba Using Kenneth Burke's Guilt-Purification-Redemption Cycle" (2013). Masters Theses. 264.
The purpose of this study was to examine the Broadway production, Wicked, and more specifically, the character of Elphaba, or the Wicked Witch of the West. The study utilized Kenneth Burke's theory of the guilt-purification-redemption cycle, and considered Elphaba's journey between the three steps of Burke's cycle. In order to understand this journey better, the researcher considered various facets of the show, including the script, lyrics, costuming, including attire and make-up, and interactions with other characters in the production. Elphaba's causes of guilt, including her mother's death, her relationship with Glinda, her cause in working with Animals, and failed magic were discussed. Following this, was a discussion of her various attempts at purification, including both mortification and scapegoating, and finally her ultimate redemption both in her own eyes and those who meant the most to her. By the finale of the Wicked production, audiences see Elphaba gain redemption. Though she does not necessarily gain forgiveness or redemption from those around her in Oz, she does finally learn to accept herself, and unhindered by peer pressure, Elphaba is able to live the life for which she has always hoped.
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