The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder was published in 1943 to critical and controversial acclaim. The play is a hilarious romp through human experience, taking in many of the prominent voices in literary history; but the play has a darker side as well.
Now, HarperCollins offers a definitive edition of Wilder's famous play, with previously unpublished production notes, diary entries, and other illuminating documentary materials, all of which sheds light on the controversial history of The Skin of Our Teeth.
Wilder was influenced by James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, as many modernist novelists and playwrights were. However, critics charged that The Skin of Our Teeth was little more than an Americanized version of Joyce's work, citing specific examples and intimating that the play was in some way plagiarized. In a letter to The Saturday Review of Literature (which he never sent), Wilder defended his play, saying that his play "moved into its own independent existence through its insistence on being theatre..." Early on in the writing of the play, he said it "fixed its thoughts on the War and the situation of the eternal family under successive catastrophes."
Though Wilder still won the Pulitzer Prize, Paula Vogel postulates that Wilder may have missed his chance of winning the Nobel Prize due to the accusations and implications that plagiarism or borrowed material may have been at the core of this great work.