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What is the meaning of "candy striper" in the following paragraph?

Samuel Beckett gets all the credit for being the darkest playwright — fail, fail again, etc. — but compared to Edward Albee, Beckett’s a candy striper. In Three Tall Women, Albee demonstrates that when it comes to death and dying, he’s as unflinching as the ward’s oldest hand, and a good deal more expressive.

(from a review on independent.com)

I consulted a number of dictionaries and found out that "candy striper" actually means "a young volunteer worker at a hospital," but I don't think this meaning applies to the word in the above paragraph.

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While @pbasdf comes close with their answer, that the terms is used

metaphorically to suggest that Albee's writing is so dark, it makes even Beckett's work seem brightly coloured.

...It is missing the context that the secondary derived meaning of 'candy-striper' is:

One who cheers others up with their youthful exuberance.

This definition is taken from Wiktionary, but is backed up by quotations such as this from Reflections of a Baby Boomer by Janice Hiatt Steil:

One of the duties a Candy Striper can do is to take the "Cheer Cart" to patient's rooms. The "Cheer Cart" is a mobile cart with books, magazines, playing cards, toothpaste and lots of other sundries a patient may like while staying in hospital.

and Coffee Time by L. Shadows:

Candy Stripers cheer up the patients throughout the hospital. We play games, give candy, and sing.

So the writer is saying that, in comparison to Edward Albee, Beckett writes cheering exuberant works.

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    Although this all seems reasonable, I would caution that metaphors need not be backed up by secondary definitions. Such secondaries would only exist when a metaphor has been used until cliche. Indeed, the Wiktionary secondary turns out to be a leftover from an incorrect original definition: en.wiktionary.org/w/… – Xerxes Jan 8 at 14:09
  • A candy striper also is (at least in the view of the writer of the review, presumably) not "as unflinching as the ward’s oldest hand." The metaphor could merely reflect the reviewer's opinion of the relative abilities of the two playwrights to deal with the particular topic of death. (This is not to say that actual candy-stripers are all as incapable of dealing with it as the reviewer seems to think.) – David K Jan 9 at 13:44
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"Samuel Beckett gets all the credit for being the darkest playwright — fail, fail again, etc. — but compared to Edward Albee, Beckett’s a candy striper. In Three Tall Women, Albee demonstrates that when it comes to death and dying, he’s as unflinching as the ward’s oldest hand, and a good deal more expressive." (from a review on independent.com)

Given that the quote compares the 'candy striper' (an inexperienced hospital worker) with 'the ward's eldest hand' (an experienced hospital worker), it clearly is using the definition you gave as a metaphor.

  • This is a good addendum to Spagirl's answer. – tmgr Jan 8 at 15:34
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    Candy stripers aren't just inexperienced, they're actually unpaid volunteers. That is, the reviewer is saying quite literally that compared to Edward Albee, Beckett's an amateur. (But of course the connotations of being a teenage girl in particular are also relevant.) – Quuxplusone Jan 9 at 4:48
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The young volunteer hospital workers to which you refer were so called because of their brightly coloured uniforms (see Wikipedia) which were reminiscent of red and white striped candy canes (see Wikipedia).

It's unclear whether the writer is alluding to the hospital workers' uniform or the candy cane origin of the term, but in either case is using it metaphorically to suggest that Albee's writing is so dark, it makes even Beckett's work seem brightly coloured.

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