Allegory in Edward Albee's The American Dream Essay

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Allegory in Edward Albee's The American Dream Our understanding of Edward Albee's achievement in The American Dream (1960) has come a long way since 1961 when Martin Esslin hailed it as a "brilliant first example of an American contribution to the Theatre of the Absurd"1 and 1966 when Nicholas Canaday, Jr. labeled it America's "best example of what has come to be known as 'the theatre of the absurd.'"2 The shrewdest assessment of absurdism in Albee is by Brian Way, who shows convincingly that, although Albee has successfully mastered the techniques of theatrical absurdism, he has nevertheless shied away from embracing the metaphysics that the style implies.3 That is, Albee knows that Theatre of the Absurd is "an absorption-in-art…show more content…
Albee's title, on the other hand, is rich in intellectual and moral substance, since it refers to a host of ideas and feelings associated with the fondest hopes of participants in the American experience, both historic and contemporary. The title is also a fitting thematic label for the play since the dialogue explicitly refers to the American Dream after the Young Man appears on stage. Ionesco's title--like all titles, an authorial comment on the text--rightly says that the play lacks meaning; Albee's says that it refers to a lot of meaning. That meaning is most obviously associated with the Young Man, since he is specifically identified as the American Dream by the dialogue of the play. The less obvious--but more important--meaning is embodied in Grandma. The goal of this essay will be to clarify how Grandma's character and experience bear most of the meaning of the American Dream that Albee wants to communicate in this play. As we shall see, that meaning fits squarely within the mainstream American humanist tradition stretching back to the early, idealistic years of the American republic. Even though she is a physical disaster, many critics have noticed various kinds of attractive qualities in Grandma. Don D. Moore finds her "the most appealing, the most refreshing and the wisest figure in the play."8 Canaday, who has written the most about Grandma, praises her for her realism, clear vision, enjoyment of living, and creative

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