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 of certain existentialist and post-existentialist philosophical concepts having to do, in the main, with man's attempts to make sense for himself out of his senseless position in a world which makes no sense."4 But Albee nevertheless "believes in the validity of reason--that things can be proved, or that events can be shown to have definite meanings."5 Structurally, the chief evidence for this claim is that Albee's plays, including The American Dream, move toward resolution, denouement and completion rather than the circularity or open-endedness typical of Theatre of the Absurd.6
Monday, January 10, 2011
allegory in Albee's "The American Dream"
An essay called "Allegory in Edward Albee's THE AMERICAN DREAM," by Ervin Beck, Professor of English at Goshen College, is available on the web here. Here are the first two paragraphs: