American Dream in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

1869 Words 8 Pages
In the final act of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Honey apologetically and drunkenly explains that she has peeled the label off her brandy bottle. To this, George replies, "We all peel labels, sweetie: and when you get through the skin, all three layers, through the muscle, slosh aside the organs, and get down to bone, you still haven't got all the way, yet. There's something inside the bone… the marrow… and that's what you gotta get at." In a play blending realism and absurdism, Edward Albee peels off the institutions and values that Americans held and hold dear, such as family, beauty, marriage, success, religion, and education. With blackly humorous ridicule and through critical analysis, Albee suggests that these institutions, …show more content…
Moreover, setting the play in New England, a birthplace and stronghold of American values and freedom, contrasts American society in the twentieth-century with the values upon which the country was founded.

Similarly, looking no further than the names of Albee's characters, Albee introduces us to his theme of the illusory and failed American dream. George and Martha, Albee's two main characters, are named in reference to George and Martha Washington, whose names are known to Americans as the founders of the American dream, and archetypes of honesty and goodness. With this ironic allusion, Albee offers us a wry and ironic comment on the corruption of American ideals and failure of the American dream, and perhaps even the illusions upon which these ideals have been founded. A third character is mockingly named Honey, perhaps because of the cloying sweetness with which she presents herself and the contrived role of women in society at the time. A further interpretation is that Honey isn't even the character's name but the affectionate yet condescending name by which her husband, Nick, calls her. These other two characters in Albee's play, Nick and Honey, perhaps represent a more modern (in Albee's eyes) American couple, putting on the act of living out the American dream, but ultimately only deluding themselves. It isn't until the final act that the theme of "truth and illusion" is explicitly stated, but the idea that these two
Open Document