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Edward Albee's Unique View On The "American Dream"

1073 words - 4 pages

"The Zoo Story" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" are two of Edward Albee's best known plays. While telling two unique stories, Albee presents a unique yet similar view on the "American Dream". Through The Zoo Story and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee presents the ideas that the "American Dream" is plagued by failure, the "American Dream" is flawed due to the absurdities within the nature of man, and finally that the "American Dream" is obscured because of instances of truth versus illusion. Through The Zoo Story and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee presents a uniquely negative view on the imperfect "American Dream".By presenting characters who are weighed down by failure in both The Zoo Story and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee presents his pessimistic view of the "American Dream". In Virginia Woolf, Martha and George, who are central characters, are trapped in a failed marriage. At the beginning of the play, Martha tells George, "I swear...if you existed I'd divorce you" (Virginia Woolf 18). As Richard Amacher states, "with these words the quarrel begins, and it speedily rises to a fairly intense pitch to tell the audience that all is not well with this marriage" (Amacher 68). Furthermore, George's failure to take over the History Department and eventually the whole University is a source of conflict between Martha and George. In a conversation with Nick and Honey, Martha explains, "first, he'd take over the History Department, and then, whenever Daddy retired, he'd take over the college" (Virginia Woolf 92). However, Martha believes that George, "can't make anything out of himself, somebody without the guts to make anybody proud of him" (94). This exchange is an exposition of George's "failure to rise in the ranks of the college administration" (Amacher 71), and this proves that although he may be perceived as living the "American Dream", he is a failure. Also, in The Zoo Story, Peter, who is the protagonist of the story, is unable to produce a son. After learning that Peter has two girls and no other children, Jerry, the antagonist of The Zoo Story, forces Peter to admit, "naturally, every man wants a son, but..." (Zoo Story 16). This failure on the behalf of Peter is so significant to Albee that Jerry refers to it in an attempt to anger Peter. Jerry tauntingly tells Peter, "you couldn't even get your wife a male child" (47) in an attempt to aggravate him. Through The Zoo Story and Virginia Woolf, Edward Albee presents the failure surrounding those who strive for the "American Dream", reiterating his negative view of this flawed concept.To support his negative view of the "American Dream", Edward Albee presents the idea that the "American Dream" is flawed due to the absurdities within the nature of man. In The Zoo Story, the absurd nature of man is demonstrated when Jerry demands Peter vacate the bench, and Peter ultimately kills him for it. After Peter refuses to leave the bench, Jerry tells...

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