Date of Award

Spring 5-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Alexandra Valint

Advisor Department



In this thesis, I argue there are three main forms of death that progress chronologically in David Rabe’s The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel and Sticks and Bones. First, the death of civilian identity as the soldier conforms to the military. Secondly, the soldier’s killing—metaphoric or literal—of others, which is part of his attempt to fit with his new military identity. Third, the soldier’s sacrificial suicide as his escape from the military identity. In this paper, I provide evidence and close reading to support my argument that the protagonists in both plays, Pavlo and David, encounter, enact, or experience all three forms of death. I believe this tripartite death sequence is a key component to understanding and then producing Rabe’s Vietnam plays, as it highlights the idea that death radiates in unexpected directions and feeds into an endless cycle of more death, aligning with David Rabe’s personal philosophy.