An analysis about the play "Proof" by David Auburn. Its a story about relationship and trust.
The play, Proof by David Auburn is about Catherine, a young woman who drops out from college to take care of her mentally ill father up to his death. She is a brilliant woman who inherited her talent from her famous mathematician father, Robert. For the past four years, her life is mostly focused in looking after him that she does not have time to socialize, let alone acquire a boyfriend until she met Hal, Robert's former student and a mathematician. In this story, the issue of trust becomes a pivotal element between Hal and Catherine in order for their new found relationship to move forward and prosper. It shows that developing a trust in a relationship is difficult and that without it, a relationship cannot exist, just like in mathematics, if there is no evidence to establish the truth, then there is no mathematical proof.
Hal and Catherine’s relationship starts in the path of doubts and uncertainties followed by an attempt of trust. Catherine's treatment of Hal in the beginning is often distant and wary. She is suspicious of his motives in combing through Robert's notebooks thinking that he may wants to publish some of her father's work under his name. When Hal said to her, “If I came up with one-tenth of the shit your dad produced, I could write my own ticket to any math department in the country," (17). This makes Catherine more hesitant in trusting him because she doubts his intentions. She is frightened that Hal only befriends her in order to take the academic spotlight for something that Robert did.
Her distrust of Hal is further perpetuated when she finds one of her dad's notebook stuffed in his coat. Catherine thinks he is stealing the notebook and calls the cops only to discover that he intends it as a birthday gift to her, as her dad writes his thoughts for her in that particular notebook while he is in remission. She warms up to Hal and talks about her father's writing though she still holds some doubts of his true motives. Catherine is attracted to Hal but is shy and hides her feelings from him. She is depressed and grieving from the recent loss of her father that getting involved with somebody is not her priority.
Catherine's resolve to avoid Hal is wasted when on the night after Robert's funeral, he comes to her while sitting in the porch and starts a conversation. Being tipsy from the beer that she drinks, she let loose of her feelings and seduces Hal in the process. When Catherine kisses him, Hal is "surprised and pleased" (38), an indication that he reciprocates her feelings. Hal is clearly attracted to Catherine but suppresses it because she is still in a vulnerable stage. Wanting to show affections and trust to Hal, Catherine gives him the key to the bottom drawer of her father's desk which contains the proof “of a mathematical theorem about prime numbers"(46). Hal is amazed of his discovery thinking that Robert writes it. When Catherine claims that the proof is hers, Hal is dumbfounded and does not believe her. It is now Hal who mistrusts Catherine. He doubts her authorship and refuses to accept that she is capable of such work of genius. He demands more proof in order to believe her. Catherine's trust is shattered and her distrust of Hal resurfaces once again. She says that, “You can't wait to show them your brilliant discovery" (63). She once more becomes suspicious of Hal saying the reason he wants to take the proof is to show off to his colleagues. Clouds of doubts again fill the air in both sides.
Catherine feels that her trust in Hal has been betrayed and she sinks into further depression. She realizes that it is hard to enter into a relationship without the foundation of trust. When Hal comes to his senses and convinced that she writes the proof, Catherine says, "you should have trusted me"(81). All Catherine ultimately wants from Hal is a complete trust without a written proof. She wants Hal to love and trust her for what she is and not for what she is capable of doing. As Hal realizes this, it looks like they are on their way to a bright future together.
It seems that trust is the binding force that makes a relationship stays afloat. If both parties harbor any uncertainties and distrust to each other, then a relationship will not survive. David Auburn shows in this play that it is easy to misuse someone’s trust and hard to maintain it but on the other hand, it is on the basis of trust that a relationship can progress into a higher level.