David Auburns Proof A Literary Analysis

Throughout the play one sees precious little of her implied genius, whereas from the onset her rather alarming instability is evident. From this it follows that Catherine’s claim to the proof rests on shaky ground that will not hold water, when subjected to the harsh light of scrutiny, scientific or otherwise.
Catherine’s intense, passionate and sometimes disturbing devotion to her father is a crucial aspect of the play and may be used to expound on the thesis outlined above. At the very onset of the play, she is seen conversing with her father, who one is given to understand is dead. Therefore her fragile mental state is established as opposed to her genius, which still remains to be seen. Robert also had fallen prey to the mental condition that was to plague him for the rest of his existence in his mid – twenties, but by then he had already made his mark, and established his brilliance in the field of mathematics, by making several worthy contributions. Catherine meanwhile, at the age of twenty five, despite evincing disturbing signs as to her mental health, had showed little by way of genius. She is unkempt in her appearance, wears filthy clothes, shows a singular disregard for personal hygiene, and merely drifts along with no aim or discernible purpose in life. Robert’s summation of her activities is particularly revealing, "You sleep till noon, you eat junk, you don’t work, the dishes pile up in the sink And those are the good days. Some days you don’t get up, you don’t get out of bed" (Auburn 8). It is hard to see any amount of intelligence take shape out of this slovenly existence, particularly since the single – minded drive and determination that characterizes genius is so conspicuous by its absence.
In order to understand this seemingly wasted life, one must take into account the nature of Catherine’s affection for her father. He is her personal hero and the bedrock of her existence. Constant exposure to the aura of his larger – than – life genius and bouts of madness has shattered her ego, disturbed her mental tranquility and left her passive and lethargic. Consequently owing to her dread of never being able to fit into his big shoes, she chooses to give up on herself and any latent gift she may possess and chooses instead to recline peacefully in the shade of her father’s immense talent and devote herself entirely to him and his needs, while waiting with constant paranoia for the mental unrest that ultimately claimed her father. In this passive, depressive state it seems that it would be impossible for Catherine to create a piece of work of such magnitude and that calls for a level of genius that is quite out of her depth, in terms of mathematical knowledge and expertise.
While Catherine’s devotion to her father cannot be disputed, it is difficult to understand why she would quit school and sacrifice her life, when professional care would have been more appropriate. As her sister Claire puts it, "Maybe some real