48 pages 1 hour read

Wendy Wasserstein

The Heidi Chronicles

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1988

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Character Analysis

Heidi Holland

Heidi is the protagonist and title character, and the action of the play centers on her development from ages 16 to 40. She is a scholar and an art historian who is successful in her field as a professor at Columbia University in New York City. Heidi is, at least in part, based on Wendy Wasserstein’s autobiographical experiences. Throughout the play, although Heidi matures, she remains steadfast in terms of her career goals and sense of independence. Her scholarship focuses on women painters and the way women are represented through portraiture. In her lectures—depicted in the prologues of both acts—she teaches about women artists who have been ignored in favor of male artists, and she highlights the female nature of their work by describing their subjects as standing back and looking in, acting as observers in their own portraits. Although the character of Heidi has been targeted by critics who saw her as frustratingly passive for a protagonist in a play about feminism, Heidi draws a parallel between herself and the women in the portraits. She is an expert observer, and in her life, she doesn’t take serious action toward creating her circumstances until she decides to adopt a baby.

Related Titles

By Wendy Wasserstein