Essay about Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia

Tom Stoppard parallels the Second Law of Thermodynamics with the human experience in his play Arcadia. The parallelism suggests truths about the evolution of science and human society, love and sexual relationships, and the physical world. The Second Law drives the formation of more complex molecular structures in our universe, the diffusion of energy, such as heat, and is inhibited by the initial energy required to unlock potential energies of compounds. Stoppard takes these concepts and explores human genius and the sexual interactions of people, with an eye towards universal human truth.

Stoppard illustrates the diffusion of energy in comparison to human relationships by incorporating the theme of loss heavily in the play. There is loss of life, loss of knowledge and loss of love, or sexual energy, in Arcadia, as well as the scattering of characters that occurs in the first time period. It could be argued that Stoppard did not intend to imply thermodynamics with all of these elements of loss. However, the depth of this theme, its excellent correlation with thermodynamics, and the way in which it often appears adjacent to direct thermo-dynamical references, make a strong case for the parallel.

Life is not eternal in Arcadia, as the author shows us loss through diverse references to death. One of many prevalent references to death is the theme of hunting in the play. Thomasina notes, ?I have grown up in the sound of guns like a child of a siege.? (Stoppard 13). The game hunting, all of those small animals dying as consequence, has been an enduring part of the Croom household. When the living energies of the grouse and the rabbits are lost, they can never be recovered in the same forms. In a later scene Septimus brings a r…

… the progress of human understanding is a result of our passions, our reactions with each other. Arcadia asks us to see how human desire fuels our growth as a species, despite the deaths of individuals.


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Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia. New York: Samuel French, Inc. 1993.

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