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This play is really a piece of veiled social criticism, its theme on the failure of the American dream"

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Introduction

"This play is really a piece of veiled social criticism, its theme on the failure of the American dream" In the American dream, America is portrayed as the land of opportunity; the perfect place for everyone to live, all the stereotypical Americans are big, comfortable, rich, and altogether happy. They portray the image that through hard work, honesty and merit, they too can reach the top, have a large house, lots of money and the perfect 'all American' family, a loving happy wife and two clever children. The play, however, could be Albee's attempt to show that in many cases this American dream is unachievable and, what could appear at first to be the perfect family could, on closer examination, turn out to be something not confirming to the American dream whatsoever. This could also be Albee showing that the American dream is a perfect image, and just an image. At first sight, Martha and George appear to be as far away from the American dream and it's ideals as is possible. They are constantly scrapping with each other and bickering and seem not to have a nice word to say to the other. At one point Martha quotes "You see, George didn't have much...push...he wasn't particularly aggressive. In fact, he was a sort of a...a FLOP! A great...big...fat...flop!" Martha is portraying her husband in no uncertain terms to his colleagues. This encourages us think that no couple from the American dream scenario would do something like this. She is blatantly betraying her husband, and more importantly, destroying the 'happy family' element of the American dream. As the play draws on, however, we find more and more evidence of a joyous marriage, hidden behind a thickened exterior from years of "exercising their wits". We can find several examples of their love; the first being in the lounge shortly after the gun incident when Martha asks George to kiss her to demonstrate his affection. ...read more.

Middle

All the men in Albee's play seem to have failed the American dream in terms of job ideals. None of them have a job where they have succeeded through honesty and loyalty. George is the only one who has been loyal, honest and hardworking, and he is still stuck in the mud at the bottom, in Martha's words, "a flop". We do not find out how Martha's father got to the top; whether honest or not. We do hear, however that he takes money from the university and has failed Martha as a father, leaving us in no doubt as to what sort of person he is. Nick has failed at a previous job and has come to a new university hoping to turn over a new leaf, this might well be believed if he didn't go and sleep with the principal's daughter shortly after arriving. He also explains, before sleeping with her to George that she is the most important woman in the university, "the biggest goose in the gaggle," leading us to believe that maybe he's sleeping with her just for the power. Honey's father is implicated by his son-in-law to burn down churches to get money; not the sort of behaviour for a man of the American dream. Gamesmanship is one of the play's major themes and is expressed in the title of the first act, "Fun and Games." Albee is emphasising the games everyone plays in life, particularly those that are harmful to us and to others. George and Martha's games have moved beyond the needs of a normal couple to chide each other for their faults. They now are capable of wounding each other deeply, as these games have become a substitute for real communication between them. In the play, their need to lash out extends to include Nick and Honey; and the party games, including "Humiliate the Host," "Get the Guests," "Bringing Up Baby," etc, provide the framework for their marital battles. ...read more.

Conclusion

George is generally passive, weakened by his lack of success and by Martha's constant humiliation of him. Nick is young, ambitious, and amoral; eager to get ahead by whatever means it takes. Their professions also contrast the two. A historian, George is also representative of a humanist, one who is interested in human values- in his case, with a particular interest in the past. A biologist, Nick represents both the future and the clinical, cold-hearted approach to life that threatens to rob mankind of its individuality. Albee ironically turns the tables on the characters when George is shown to be the one in control and the only one who has ever satisfied Martha. Nick, "the stud," is impotent in his sexual encounter with Martha and becomes the "houseboy," the subservient one. 'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf' is truly a portrait of humiliation and broken dreams. It is a piece of social criticism on the failure of the American dream. Albee has stated that "the role of the writer is to be, axiomatically, against any society he happens to be living in," and we can certainly find evidence to prove this statement as we look at and study this play. The American dream is a state of perfection that can never be achieved. Martha and George who are happy but do not conform to the ideals and Nick and Honey who appear perfect, but under the surface are very strained. Martha is loud and boisterous but deeply unhappy, George is unsuccessful but loved and admired, Honey is unloved but delicate and beautiful, Nick is successful but not liked. All the men in the play appear unsuccessful when compared to the American dream. The games they play are not happy, or fun, but an excuse for verbal abuse. The characters are part of a society where they hold all night orgies, use violence and drink to extremes. The play is a piece of social criticism on the failure of the American dream. Elizabeth Surrey 10S ...read more.

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