Dean of Humanities
Chairperson, Board of Studies (P.G.)
Department of English Acharya Nagarjuna University Nagarjuna Nagar-522 510, A.P.
Once when asked if the American family or murdering parents and children constituted the recurring theme in his plays, Albee protested against the critical tendency to fossilize a living artist: “People are often eager to make neat packages. But I think one of the most preposterous things in the world is to examine a body of work that is growing and come to conclusions about it. If I were to drop dead I could understand an evaluation being made. This whole thing may be merely a preparation for something entirely different.”1
In the early plays, Albee satirizes the bourgeois American family and destroys the common illusions attached to it. He redicules the family’s standardized components but nevertheless implies the possibility of mutual accommodation which emerges in the later plays. The important difference between the early satires and the middle and later plays is that the family unit and the house which shelters it come to represent in both real and metaphysical terms an acceptable search for order and a place for the inherent human need for love. The family is a common metaphor through out, first, providing the agency for either disharmony or communion among individuals, and, second, embodying a recognizable entity for that peculiar Albee character which Ruby Colm has called “Albeegory”.
The family group as a vehicle for the themes of spiritual and actual death-in-life is obvious in his brief, early play, The Sandbox. This brief skit, only fourteen minutes long, presents a caricature of Mommy and Daddy in their cliché-ridden existence, opposed by the life-death cycle represented in the dying Grandma and the Young Man, Angel of Death. In abstracting the characters from The American Dream for a play commissioned for the Spoleto Festival in Italy, Albee has successfully distilled their essential qualities and clarified antagonisms. Mommy-Daddy (and their hired musician) are clearly on one
side and the Grandma — Young Man on the other. On the Mommy-Daddy level, Albee continues his thematic exposure of the hypocrisies and empty customs developed; the awareness of love alongside the inevitability of death. In addition to the basic antagonism between the two sets of characters there is a complex system of role-playing on each side. In The Sandbox, Albee adopts a Pirandellian technique whereby the characters knowingly play out their individual roles within a social structure and a known destiny. The movement of the play2 is towards inevitable natural death in contrast with the deadening pretenses of living.
Mommy and Daddy come on to a bare stage as a beach setting, where once more we have the isolated two chairs, “set side by side, facing the audience”. The stage directions inform us that when these two people call each other by name,” these names are empty of affection and point up the presenility and vacuity of their characters.* Onstage is a Young Man performing calisthenics, employing the arms only, suggesting “the beating and fluttering of wings. THE YOUNG MAN is, after all, the Angel of Death” (9).3 He is the American Dream Young Man further advanced into simplicity of mind and heart, an actor who is told by others what to do.4
The Mommy chooses a place as a perfect spot to set Grandma down for her approaching death – “There is sand there – and the water beyond” (9), she says, describing the end of the land as bordering on eternity. They bring on Grandma, carrying her in a kind of foetal position, and “dump her” into a sandbox. In this box, she is child and ancient, embodying the entire process of life’s cyclical ritual, with the end in the beginning. Mommy has arranged a competing ritual of burial according to social custom – the proper thing to do in the face of her mother’s death. Playing the role of stage director setting the scene for death, she commands a hired musician to play, sees that all is in readiness, with Grandma in her symbolic box, and seats herself along with Daddy to await the event with suitable attitude of mourning.
They are interrupted in their grief by Grandma who sometimes acts a child and sometimes a stage manager, stepping out of the dramatic frame. She halts the expected passing of time, informs them that she is not yet ready to die and turns to the audience to launch into an autobiographical account of her life: her marriage to a farmer, his Death,
*Edward Albee. Two Plays—The Sandbox, The Death of Bessie Smith (New York: Signet Books, 1963) p. 8. All subsequent references are to this edition.
and the resultant situation where, pointing to Mommy, “I had to raise that big cow over there by my lonesome,” (The Old Woman in Albee’s play Box-Mao-Box was also married to a farmer, also reviews her past, is also rejected by her girl children, affirming the continuity of Albee’s familial characters throughout his work). Grandma finally begins to busy herself, while the Young Man Angel who is an actor speaks the lines he has been taught and Grandma complements him for his performance. In this ambience of surrealism and Pirandello – like role-playing, Grandma, the master of her own death, folds her arms and pretends to expire at her own rate in the sandbox; Mommy, thinking that Grandma is dead, stops the musician, ceases the death-watch and mouths a cliché of satisfaction with the ritual she has directed: “It pays to do things well”. She and Daddy leave, satisfied that they have done the proper thing. Ironically, Grandma is not dead – she has observed her daughter’s sentiments and mocks them comically. Weak and unable to get out of the box, she is really near death and in her last moments establishes a real exchange of affection with the youth as Angel of Death.
Brief as it is, The Sandbox deserves close scrutiny, despite the fact that the critic George Wellwarth states that, like The Death of Bessie Smith, it is not worth much comment.5 In a comprehensive view of Albee’s work, it represents a refinement of the beginning plays in the succinctness of its characterizations and in spareness of its design, a foreshadowing of what is to come in the immensely more sophisticated Box and Quotations. Role-playing which has been fully developed in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and to some extent in Tiny Alice and A Delicate Balance – is among the devices initiated in this little play.
Synthesis of time is one of the most important techniques characteristic of Albee in the development of plot and theme. In The Sandbox, that synthesis is exemplified in the character of Grandma who literally bridges past and present. The end of the playlet is in the beginning, as the aged Grandma dies in the coffin dust of the child’s sandbox. Age and childhood, past and present, the worldly and the other worldly are together – a situation which Albee’s later plays explore in greater depth.
The box is a symbol unique to Albee, appearing repetitively throughout his work. In The Sandbox, as the child’s place and the ultimate enclosure of the old lady, it is the container of time’s continuity, exemplifying the existence of the past and the present. We have a first inkling of this notion in The American Dream with Grandma’s boxes as the
securely tied-up emblems of a lifetime. The form of the box becomes ultimately dominant in Box and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung where it represents an inevitable presence, a known order which remains unaltered and unalterable through past and present time. Related to the box is the room which can be seen as a symbolic place of security in The Zoo Story. The room as enclosure becomes in later plays a vital centre of struggle, uniting past and present time.
Despite its germinal characteristics in respect to Albee’s later work, the little skit is, after all, fundamentally a farce. It is a comedy of manners, employing some rather sophisticated devices including parody, reversal, and irony, as well as amusing visual effects. Contrasted to the stillness of death and the visual blankness of the scene is the Bergsonian comic device of characters engaged in mechanical repetitive motions: the Mommy – directed musician keeps playing the perfunctory music of the funeral rites, while nodding up and down like robot; the Angel of Death, playing his role, does his fluttering calisthenics hovering over the dying Grandma. The nodding may also be interpreted as a friendly and affectionate recognition of the Young Man by the Musician, but the contrasts are visually amusing while at the same time they are symbolically representative of two opposing attitudes at the moment of death.
In one of his fatuous attempts to rewrite Albee, Michael Rutenberg decries all this motion onstage as detracting from Grandma, and wishes it had been omitted.6 Rather than detracting, these movements enhance the comedic comment in the play, providing a visual and aural counterpoint between the measures of the funeral music and the dance of death as well as juxtaposing two movements in time, one related to the sterile life of Mommy and Daddy and the other to the Grandma – Young Man alliance of feeling. They also provide some rhythm to an otherwise statistically-designed playlet.
Comic scenes in The Sandbox demonstrate Albee’s exceptional ear for the orchestration of dialogue and sound. The following dialogue demonstrates his handling of the rhythm of speech with a kind of spareness resembling vaundeville:
(There is an off-stage rumble)
Daddy: (Starting): What was that?
Mommy: (beginning to weep) It was nothing.
Daddy: It was . . . it was . . . thunder . . . or a wave breaking . . . or something.
Mommy: (Whispering through her tears) It was an off-stage rumble . . . and you know what that means . . .
Daddy: I forget . . .
Mommy: (Barely able to talk) It means the time has come for poor Grandma . . . and I can’t bear it!
Daddy: (Vacantly) I . . . I suppose you’re got to be brave.
Grandma: (Mocking) That’s right, kid, be brave, you’ll bear up, you’ll get over it. (Another off-stage rumble . . . louder).
Mommy: Ohhhhhhhhhh . . . poor Grandma . . . poor Grandma . . .
Grandma: (To Mommy) I’m fine! I’m all right! It hasn’t happened yet! (16-17).
Bigsby correctly observes that The Sandbox is the “closest that Albee has ever come to reproducing an “absurd” play in the European sense. Nevertheless there are clear indications that his personal vision stops short of Beckett’s nihilism. For in the person of Grandma he creates a character whose vitality and perception contrast directly with the vacuity of those who take part in her personal endgame. She clearly has no patience with the hypocrisy shown by Mommy and Daddy. She recognizes their clichés for what they are and in doing so surely attests the existence of other values. At the same time, she faces her death with a dignity and even a sense of touching irony which seem to lift her above the immediate absurdity of her situation.”7
Despite obvious resemblances to Pirandello, to Strindberg in The Dance of Death and Ghost Sonata, and to other contemporary playwrights, Albee has his own private outlook and technique for developing it. This little play, concentrating on the familial absurdities alongside the vision of love and the need for love, reveals a non-destructive attitude, a typically American hope that things ought to be better than they are. Through the medium of farce, Albee has sharpened his characteristic view.
The American Dream may be considered as play which enlarges the scope of Albee’s satire on American society. The American family emerges from its background role in The Zoo Story and becomes the object of open derison in The American Dream; but while Albee redicules the moral, social, and economic standards which govern the institutions of the home and marriage, he is concerned with corruption in the whole of the societal structure. From the technical point of view, this play contains devices which become characteristic of the later Albee; it also demonstrates clearly a growing schism between his presentation of social problem and an exhibition of personal suffering.
In the Preface to The American Dream, dated May 24, 1961, Albee writes:
The play is an examination of the American Scene, an attack on the substitution of the artificial for real values in our society, a condemnation of complacency, cruelty, emasculation and vacuity; it is a stand against the fiction that everything in this slipping land of ours is peachy-keen.
Is the play offensive? I certainly hope so, it was my intention to offend – as well as amuse and entertain. Is it nihilist, immoral, defeatist? Well to that let me answer that The American Dream is a picture of our time – as I see it, of course. Every honest work is a personal, private yowl, a statement of one individual’s pleasure or pain, but I hope that The American Dream is something more than that. I hope that it transcends the personal and the private, and has something to do with the anguish of us all.8
Albee hopes that the examination of the “American scene” transcends the “private yowl,” the question is whether he has successfully combined an intellectual satire on society with individual psychology. He begins the play in the mode of Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, an amusing exposure of society fatuities, but veers away from it into probings of psychological order.
The visual setting of The American Dream implies lack of communication, as in his earlier play, The Zoo Story. Mommy and Daddy are discovered at the beginning of the play, seated in two separated chairs set down in a barren living room. The dialogue indicates disorder in the malfunctioning household where the icebox and the doorbell are out of order and the toilet doesn’t work.9 In this parody of the American symbols of a good life, caricatured Mommy and Daddy are dependent on the outside world to assist them not only in righting the physical evidences of disarrayed house, but also for standards of judgement.
When we took this apartment, they were quick enough to have one sign the lease, they were quick enough to take my check for two month’s rent in advance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But now, try to get the icebox fixed, try to get the doorbell fixed, try to get the leak in the johnny fixed! Just try it . . . they aren’t so quick about that (pp. 57, 58).
Mrs. Barker, an embodiment of the “they”10 who fix things, arrives. She fills a multiple role as symbol of an outside society, as chairman of Mommy’s women’s club and final arbiter of Mommy’s taste, as worker for the Bye-Bye Adoption Agency which was responsible for selling Mommy and Daddy an adopted son who failed to please and has died of wounds inflicted on him by his adopting parents, as the “they” who will give parents “satisfaction”, a term which runs throughout the play with amusing application to sexual as well as material affairs. Mrs. Barker is a comprehensive figure of external moral and social authority which includes the disposition and the fate of children within the family. She is a comic butt of satire.
In this family, the youth who has died was emasculated and literally destroyed by Mommy. By means of an amusing trick of substitution by Grandma – a canny figure whom Albee establishes as the truth – teller and raisonneur in the family – a young man without individuality or passion, therefore a model of the splendid American Dream, becomes a replacement for the dead child. He is a living twin, but, deprived of the qualities which Mommy found offensive, he is emotionally and spiritually dead, therefore able to fulfill Mommy’s dreams. The American Dream youth is happily accepted by Mommy who finally has the son she wants, a beautiful young man who is unable to love but submits to being loved, a victim shaped to the needs of those about him:
Young Man: We were identical twins . . . he and I
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
But we were separated when we were still very young, my brother, my twin and I . . . I have suffered losses . . . Once, my heart became numb . . .and from that time I have been unable to love . . . and since that time I have been unable to see anything, anything, with pity, with affection . . . with anything but . . . cool disinterest. And my groin . . . even there . . . since one time . . . one specific agony . . . since then I have not been able to love anyone with my body . . . I no longer have the capacity to feel anything. I have no emotions. I have been drained, torn asunder, disembowed. I have, now, only my person . . . my body, my face. I use what I have . . . I let people love me . . . I accept the syntax around one, for while I know I cannot relate . . . I know I must be related to. . . . As I told you, I am incomplete . . . I can feel nothing. I can feel nothing. (114, 115)
The Young Man concludes his speech with the comment which reflects his destiny: “It will always be thus”. For the final ordering of this household is an empty disorder, matching its physical disarray. The emotional identification of the two halves of the child, the double image of a child sacrificed to a destructive mother, is a psychologically disturbing one. Having begun with the cool, pared-down dialogue of satire and parody, Albee turns to a different mode where turbulent and passionate psychological drama dominates the more objective scene.
Despite shifts between general satire and personal psychology, the view of Mommy is consistent. Mommy is unrelievedly destructive and morally and physically corrupt in The American Dream. The lack of proper name makes her a generic specimen of all Mommies just as the other characters are types representative of other members of the family. The only character in the play with a name is Mrs. Barker, presumably named for
the insistent voice of the intrusions of an outside world. Mommy, according to Grandma, 8
“makes all the trouble. If you’d listen to me, you wouldn’t have married in the first place. She was a tramp and a trollop and a trull to boot, and she’s no better now” (69). The total caricature of Mommy’s materialism and immorality exemplifies the playwright’s view at this point in his development, a view of disorder in both private and public worlds. As a common denominator of evil in both phases of the play – social satire and psychological “drama” – Mommy is consistent and serves as a base for Albee’s ironic views on society as a whole and the American family in particular.11 In the later plays, the character changes somewhat. Although the “Mommy” of Virginia Woolf and A Delicate Balance retains some of the characteristics of this Mommy, she loses her ascendancy to the male. In the later plays, a softer closure is effected with the view of Mommy’s capacity for acceptance of accommodation, if not actual love.
Yet Albee is not denying the possibilities of rapport between people; it is notable that those possibilities reside in Albee’s mouthpiece for truth, the Grandma. Hamilton has quite correctly identified her as the conscience of the play and its “questing intelligence.”12 Mommy and Daddy want to get rid of her, as, like the generation she represents, the truth of the past has outlived its usefulness. But Grandma has a close liason of understanding with the Young Man, establishing what Dan Sullivan has called “some hope for the family romance after all.”13
In The American Dream, Albee introduces techniques and devices which distinguish his future work. First, the personae of the Albee family make their first real appearances, the domineering Mommy, the arid Daddy, the sympathetic Grandparent, the suffering child. Second, the Insider-Outsider confrontation which is vital to an understanding of the structure of Albee’s plays is born with Mrs. Barker, the first of a long line of outsiders who represent the corruption of exterior values affecting the “house”. Third, the double or mirror image reflecting dual sides of time and character – a device greatly extended in later plays – appears literally in a pair of twins, one living and one dead, allying the child and death as a recurrent motif in Albee.
The metaphor of family as a milieu for social and historical themes begins with The American Dream. The notions of fertility and aridity as exemplified in familial relations are later extended in Virginia Woolf, and particularly in All Over into a broader framework dealing with man’s historic place. In The American Dream, nothing is certain for Mommy and Daddy, representatives of the shifting realities of today’s society, not even
individual desire or taste. In Mommy’s parable of the hat, Albee employs the parable technique which is typical of his dramaturgy. Mommy was uncertain of its colour, bought an identical hat taking it for another, always dependent on the judgement of somebody else. Physical objects are unreal; rooms disappear absurdly in that disordered house, Mommy goes for water and can’t find it, Daddy can’t find Grandma’s room which was there but isn’t really discoverable. Albee is making a modulation from the examples of silly disconnections of reality within the family to the larger social and contemporary scene, equating the absurdities in both worlds. On the other hand, Grandma has everything tied up in small boxes. She knows where she is and where she is going, she has a history enclosed in the boxes. In a motif which harks back to Jerry’s possessions in his room in The Zoo Story and which anticipates the symbol of order in the play called Box-Mao-Box, Grandma finally explains the contents of her precious containers after Mommy and Daddy, caught up in ephemera, repeatedly refuse to be interested or to understand the real memorabilia of a life-time: “some old letters, a couple of regrets . . . Pekinese, blind at that
. . . the television . . . my Sunday teeth . . . eighty-six years of living . . . (120). Albee employs the imagery of these boxes as concealing the elusive realities of life which Daddy and Mommy and Mrs. Barker are unable to see. For Grandma, they are the abiding and permanent things, her intimate properties, objective correlatives of a genuine self. The removal of Grandma from the house implies the inherent schism between the realities of a known past and the unrealities of an uncertain present – a theme which absorbs Albee in later plays.
Lee Baxandall has placed an historical interpretation on the whole roster of Albee characters in all plays, including The American Dream, according to epochs in American history. He states that “three generations comprise Albee’s archetypal family: Then, the epoch of a still-dynamic national ethic and vision, Now, a phase which breaks down into several tangents of decay, and Nowhere, a darkly prophesied future generation. Only two characters are left over from Then; Grandma . . . and a pater-familias or patriarch who is occasionally mentioned but never appears.”14 In The American Dream the child is seen in the context of a real family as compared with Jerry’s Mom and Pop who are shadowy figures in the background or empty spaces in a picture frame.
When Grandma has her confidential discussion with Mrs. Barker, Grandma relates the story of the child adopted twenty years earlier in order to explain to Mrs. Barker why
she has come to see Mommy and Daddy. Grandma lapses into the story-telling attitude; “Once upon a time. . .” (96). She proceeds to tell the story with only a slight disguise: “There was a man very much like Daddy, and a woman very much like Mommy. . . .” Grandma is playing a word game with Mrs. Barker, but Mrs. Barker later reveals that she is unable to understand the rationale between Grandma’s use of the word “like” and the visit to Mommy and Daddy. It is certainly probable that twenty years ago, they all were not as they are now. What Mommy and Daddy wanted was “a bumble of joy.” Mrs. Barker states, “Oh, like a bundle” (97). Grandma says, “Bundle, bumble, who cares?” (98). The substitution of the word “bumble” becomes significant when it is revealed that what Mommy and Daddy wanted is comparable to a “bumbling idiot.” Also, with her rhetorical question, Grandma re-emphasizes the lack of concern not merely for words, but for the thoughts and ideas which they should transmit.
The story is filled with indications of Mommy’s and Daddy’s sexual sterility and mental impotence. The baby is bought, as one buys a commodity, and what follows is a tale of child abuse which is related through the use of clichés of the body: “It cried its heart out, “Mommy gouged those eyes right out of its head,” (99), Mommy and Daddy castrated the child and cut its hands off for developing “an interest in its you-know-what,” they “cut its tongue out” for calling Mommy “a dirty name” (100). As the child grew, Mommy and Daddy discovered that “it didn’t have a hand on its shoulders, it had no guts, it was spineless, its feet were made of clay. . . .” (101). The literal use of the clichés temper the horror of the story with the ridiculous. This combination, which gives the story its meta- realistic effect, is further compounded by Mommy’s and Daddy’s actions after the child died, naturally Mommy and Daddy resented its death, “their having paid for it, and all.” They proceed to demand satisfaction from the agency, which supports the idea that the child was treated as a commodity: “They wanted their money back. That’s what they wanted” (101). This attitude further illustrates their crass complacency. The child meant no more to them than the fixtures they could not fix. Instead of enabling the child to explore as children do, Mommy and daddy not only emasculated him, but left him unable to learn sensorality. He was thus not merely dehumanised, he was given the attribute of “thing-ness”. The logical conclusion is that the child became being-as-object-corpse. The child was permitted no life, and therefore was beyond Death-in-life.
After Grandma finishes telling her story to Mrs. Barker (who can only say, “My, my, my” (101), Mommy and Daddy are heard wandering around off-stage, unable to find not only Grandma’s television and Pekinese, but also such illogical things to lose as the water and Grandma’s room. This is a situation of incomprehensible inanity, for they cannot accomplish what any trainable retardate can learn to do. It is amid this confusion that the Young Man enters, greeted first by Grandma, who has the same reaction of pleasure as the Grandma of The Sandbox. Again, both Grandma and the young man admire his muscles, while he flexes them to justify her admiration, as well as his own. He is likewise considering an acting career. As Grandma says, he should be “right up there on the old silver screen.” The young man agrees that his face is handsome:
Yes, it’s quite good, isn’t it? Clean-cut, midwest farm boy type, almost insultingly good-looking in a typically American way. Good profile, straight nose, honest eyes, wonderful smile . . . (107).
What the young man has described is the prototype of the traditionally acceptable American young man, judged on the basis of physical appearance and surface reaction. Grandma explains the meaning of his self-description:
Yup. Boy, you know what you are, don’t you? You’re the American Dream, that’s what you are. All those other people, they don’t know what they’re talking about. (108)
The tendency at this point is to regard the young man as a symbol, and his mental and emotional vacuity justifies the symbolism as well as clarifies it. The clean, honest good- hearted, and pleasant looking young man is considered by American society to embody the potential to fulfill the dream of success. As the young man says of himself, “I’m a type” (113). But the required conformity constitutes that middle-classed deformity Grandma earlier mentions. The young man does not care what kind of work he performs; “I’ll do almost anything for money” (109). He will help Grandma only if “there’s money in it” (110). He is unsure of most things and seems to have little or no recall. He explains,
It’s that I have no talents at all, except what you see . . . my person, my body, my face. In every other way I am incomplete, and I must therefore . .
. compensate” (113).
The young man’s story reveals that he was the identical twin of the child Mommy mutilated and murdered, the young man is without grace, innocence, heart, sight, or sexual potency:
I no longer have the capacity to feel anything. I have no emotions. I have been drained, torn asunder . . . disemboweled. I have, now, only my person
. . . my body, my face. I use what I have . . . I let people love me.. . I accept the syntax around us, for while I know I cannot relate . . . I know I must be related to. As I told you, I am incomplete . . . I can feel nothing. I can feel nothing (115).
This statement presents a complete picture of spiritual sterility.
The implication involved in this presentation of the young man is that the Mommies and Daddies of the world have destroyed the founding idealism of the American Dream. Because of “complacency, cruelty, emasculation and vacuity” of such members of society, the American Dream is now only an outward form. It has no further substance than the alphabetical letters which form its name. These people try only for the trite aspects of life, the basic value is money rather than accomplishment, personal dignity means only that the real truth is not recognized or stated, and language is limited to a group of stylized, meaningless forms. The Mommies and Daddies of the world refuse to think or feel, what they live is the life-lie to the extreme, an existence of total inauthenticity. In a society in which sterility has become a way of life, all that is left is a crude deformity of what man could be. Thus, as Mommy and Daddy accept the young man as a substitute for Grandma, it is understood that their trite hopes are bound in a dead and thus futile future.15 Unlike in The Sandbox, Grandma does not physically die. As Albee states, Grandma “departs from a form of life a great deal more dead than anything else”.16 Yet, as in Jerry’s case (The Zoo Story), Grandma makes a decisive act to remove herself from the Death-in- life situation around her. At the end of the play, Grandma has already left the play. But she returns to the audience’s view to make the last statement of the play:
Well, I guess that just about wraps it up. I mean, for better or worse, this is a comedy, and I don’t think we’d better go any further. No, definitely not. So, let’s leave things as they are right now . . . while everybody’s happy . . . while everybody’s got what he wants . . . or everybody’s got what he thinks he wants. Good night, dears (127).
This is the statement of The American Dream directed to the audience, and its inclusive “everybody” implies that the members of the audience are involved in the same situation portrayed on the stage. As Anne Poolucci states, the play is “an incisive comment on the lie in us all.”17 Grandma indicates that if the play were to continue, it would no longer be comic, for the future of those in such a situation is not pleasant or amusing. Mental, emotional, and spiritual sterility can only lead to a future continuation of what Grandma has called “an age of deformity.”
- Wagner, Walter, ed., The Playwrights Speak (New York: Delacorte Press, 1967) 61.
- Richard E. Amacher – adopting some Aristotelian criteria for this little play as for other Albee works – observes that it moves through a complex design of “recognition” to a destined close. He states that the design is “complex, not because it reverses itself but because it does not. The general line of the plot is unchanged from beginning to end, Grandma dies. But the plot is complex because it contains recognition, or discovery . .
. a change from ignorance to knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined . . . for good or bad fortune.” Richard E. Amacher. Edward Albee (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969), 177.
- This authorial note, while of course not transmittable in performance, points up Albee’s stress on “doubling”, the reflecting of a character in multiple embodiments. This insertion is similar to a textual comment in the much later play, All Over, where in almost identical language, Albee equates two separate personae in the play.
- Cohn has remarked on the similarity of monograms in American Dream youth and the Angel of Death. Cohn, Ruby. Edward Albee, University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers, No. 77 (Minneapolis: Univ. of Minneapolis Press, 1969) 13.
- Wellwarth, George E. “Hope Deferred: The New American Drama”, Literary Review, 7 (1963) 274-84.
- Rutenberg, Michael E. Edward Albee – Playwright in Protest (New York: DBS Publications, 1969) 43.
- Bigsby, C.W.E. Edward Albee. (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1969) 30.
- Edward Albee. “The American Dream” in Two Plays by Edward Albee. (New York: Signet Classics, The New American Library, Inc., 1961) (53-54). All subsequent references are to this edition.
- Michael Rutenberg carries his social and political bias into an extra-textual interpretation of the broken down household, observing that the “refrigerator represents our hunger drive, which is at the moment now being taken care of adequately. The broken down bathroom suggests that waste is piling [sic] up in this grotesque household. The broken doorbell symbolizes the family’s isolation.”
Rutenberg, Michael. Edward Albee – Playwright in Protest, p. 64.
- Albee’s fascination with the plural pronoun replacing the singular pronoun becomes more visible in later works, especially in Tiny Alice.
- Debussher views the play as a comment on the American institution of “momism”. Debusscher, Gilbert. Edward Albee, Tradition and Renewal. Brussels: American Studies Center, 1967.
- Kenneth Hamilton, “Mr. Albee’s Dream,” Queen’s Quarterly, 70 (1963) 393-99.
- Dan Sullivan. “Albee’s Bessie Smith and Dream Revived,” New York Times, (3 Oct., 1968) 55.
- Lee Baxandall. “The Theatre of Edward Albee,” Tulane Drama Review, 9:2 (Summer 1965) 19-40.
15. Ibid., p. 20.
- Rutenberg, Michael. “Interview with Edward Albee”, in Edward Albee – Playwright in Protest, op. cit., p. 236.
- Paolucci, From Tension to Tonic, p. 29.