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Edward Albee's American Dream Essay

2045 words - 8 pages

Daddy, in “The Ameican Dream,” is muted by a wife who only views him as a source of financial and emotional validation. Mommy claims, “I have the right to live off you because I married you, and because I used to let you get on top of me and bump your uglies; and I have the right to all your money when you die” (Albee 67). Here Albee illuminates how the commitment of marriage is reduced to a sexual-financial transaction. Daddy is less a man than a commodified husband. Daddy, during the course of the play, scarcely utters an original thought, rather he just acts as an echo of what would otherwise be Mommy’s shallow monologue. Their conversation is hollow. Mommy exclaims “... and so, I bought it” and Daddy repeats “and so you bought it” (Albee 59). When Daddy fails to reiterate what Mommy says she scolds him “What did I just say?” (Albee 59). In the play there are two instances where Daddy intones something other than accord with mommy. The first is when he asks Mommy to allow Grandma to stay up past noon. In second instance of Daddy’s weak defiance he wants to weigh “the pros and ...” of opening the door (73). Ellipses show his hesitance to even finish a thought that opposes his wife’s command. Mommy clips this conversation by refusing to argue and commenting on Daddy’s masculinity. Though his character seems submissively acquiescent to Mommy he does not try to provide more than a superficial validation of Mommy. He makes no effort to provide any insights for her. In the stage directions Albee instructs the performer to make Daddy “snap[...] to” as if he were sleeping and “toneless” when he listens to Mommy. Neither character invests in their spouse. This lack of relationship is reflected in their superficial dialogue.
A culture that wishes to put the elderly out of sight and mind quiets Grandma. Grandma’s is the silence of a disempowered voice. In one telling exchange between Mommy and Daddy they claim:
Mommy: Don’t you worry about it; Grandma doesn’t know what she means.
Daddy: She knows what she says though.
Mommy: Don’t you worry about it; she won’t know that soon (65).
Here Albee simultaneously explores the gulf between word and meaning as well as attitudes about the elderly. Mommy and Daddy marginalize Grandma by discrediting her words. Grandma observes “When you get so old, people talk to you that way. That’s why you become deaf, so you won’t hear people talking to you that way... That’s why old people die” (65). She is boxed up. She represents the remnants of a family/community centered society. She claims to be over a hundred and fifty years old. This hyperbolic age would make her a pre-industrial child. It is fitting with the values of that era that Grandma would literally sacrifice her dinner for her daughter’s lunch. Now that same daughter wants to put her mother out of sight in a nursing home. Grandma contributes the most substantive dialogue in the play, yet no one pays her heed. She...

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