85 pages 2 hours read

Moises Kaufman

The Laramie Project

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 2001

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Symbols & Motifs

“Live and let live”

This phrase is used by Marge Murray to describe Laramie’s attitude towards LGBT people. In the wake of Matthew Shepard’s death, it takes on a terrible irony and is used throughout the play as a way to expose and challenge the homophobia that exists in Laramie. Marge’s use of the phrases suggests that, in Laramie, straight people lead lives that rarely intersect with those of their gay neighbors; they are happy to let gay people “live” if they do not have to confront the fact of their existence. However, as she continues with her explanation, it becomes clear that if this status quo is disrupted, violence will result. That violence found expression in the attack on Matthew Shepard in October 1998.

Jonas Slonaker challenges the value of “live and let live” when he points to the violent consequences the phrase obscures. As a gay person, you have to “live” a certain way—that is, as a straight person—if you are to be allowed to live without fear. Such a life, without freedom of expression or desire, is the only way to ensure one’s safety. Thus, this phrase is less the expression of a laissez faire attitude to LGBT people than it is a veiled threat that works to keep them in their place.