“Proof”; There Is No Free Will
The play “Proof” by David Auburn is about a young woman named Catherine who is
going through a time of extreme change and turmoil. Throughout the story, Catherine constantly
seems to have to make difficult decisions. However, nearly Catherine never really gets to make a
proper autonomous decision about her life. From a philosophical point of view, the play is
showing that Catherine has no free will in how her life goes and her existence fits under the
philosophical belief of determinism. In the play “Proof” by David Auburn, the character
Catherine has no control over her life, being pushed and pulled this way and that by both external
and internal forces. Catherine is rarely seen being completely autonomous, and is often at the
mercy of the whims of the people and situations around her. The major decisions in Catherine’s
life are being made directly by her sister, Claire, influenced by the men in her life, Robert and
Hal, or taken away from her by circumstances.
Catherine’s sister Claire makes consistent attempts, some successful, some not, to
directly control various aspects of her life. She symbolizes Catherine’s lack of freedom; even
when Catherine may or may not want to do something, the decision is often in Claire’s hands.
Claire is constantly trying to convince Catherine to move to New York, claiming that they
“would have so much fun” despite Catherine’s insistence that she is “okay here” (Auburn, 27).
She does not even consider Catherine’s opinion and automatically assumes this is what is best
for her sister because she believes it to be true. Claire is decisive factor over whether or not
Catherine got to go to College, as she funded it (Auburn 38). Even if Catherine made the
decision of her own free will, she would not actually be able to go without Claire’s money.
Claire tries to sell the house and get Catherine committed. Both are events that Catherine does
not want, and should be her choice as they affect her life, but Claire still tries to force it on her
without even consulting her. “I don't need an apartment, I’ll stay in the house” “ were selling the
house” “What?” “We-- [Claire] is selling it”(Auburn 37). Claire behaves in ways Catherine does
not like. Claire’s very existence is contrary to what Catherine would choose if she had free will
which causes them to constantly disagree on Claire’s decisions, especially towards looking after
their father. As soon as Catherine expresses her own opinion and shares it with her sister, like
when she says that she was “right to keep [their father] here”, Claire automatically shuts her
down and disagrees. (Auburn 39) This demonstrates how opinionated yet manipulative Claire is,
not considering Catherine’s thoughts and immediately concluding that her sister is in the wrong.
During an ongoing dispute about their deceased father, Claire says she “should have never let”
Catherine stay with Robert when...