Clybourne Park

by

Bruce Norris

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Lena Character Analysis

A black woman in her thirties. She is married to Kevin, with whom she has three children. Lena is the grandniece of the matriarch of the Younger family, after whom she was named. Lena grew up in the Clybourne Park neighborhood and so has an emotional connection to it. She also has a political interest in the neighborhood, which she understands to be gentrifying as wealthier white families move in and displace middle-class black families. Therefore, she hopes to be able to prevent Steve and Lindsey from changing the character of the historic house by renovating it. Unlike Kevin, Lena is not interested in making friends with Steve, Lindsey, or Kathy. Instead, she hopes to communicate to them her deep concern for the Clybourne Park neighborhood and its history. Lena is played by the same actor who plays Francine in Act I.

Lena Quotes in Clybourne Park

The Clybourne Park quotes below are all either spoken by Lena or refer to Lena. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Clybourne Park published in 2011.
Act 2 Quotes

Lindsey: Can I say? We talked about renovation. We discussed it. Because these houses are so charming and I know it’s a shame — but when you figure in the crack in the sub-floor and the cost of the lead abatement — and in a market like this one? It just made more sense to start from scratch.
Tom: Right. But: the Owners Association has a vested interest — Kevin and Lena call me up last month, they say Tom, we’ve got this problem, these people are planning to build a house that’s a full fifteen feet taller than all the adjacent structures…and I think we’d all agree that there’s a mutual benefit to maintaining the integrity — the architectural integrity…of a historically significant…neighborhood.

Related Characters: Tom Driscoll (speaker), Lindsey (speaker), Steve, Lena, Kevin
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Lindsey: And you know, the thing is? Communities change.
Steve: They do.
Lindsey: That’s just the reality.
Steve: It is.
Lena: And some change is inevitable, and we all support that, but it might be worth asking yourself who exactly is responsible that change?
Lindsey: I’m not sure what you—?
Kevin: Wait, what are you trying to—?
Lena: I’m asking you to think about the motivation behind the long-range political initiative to change the faith of this neighborhood….I mean that this is a highly desirable area…And I’m saying that there are certain economic interests that are being served by those changes and others that are not. That’s all.

Related Characters: Lindsey (speaker), Steve (speaker), Lena (speaker), Kevin (speaker)
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

Steve: The history of America is the history of private property.
Lena: That may be —
Steve: Read De Tocqueville.
Lena: —though I rather doubt your grandparents were sold as private property.
Steve: Ohhhhh my god. Look. Look. Humans are territorial, okay?
Lindsey: Who are you?
Steve: This is why we have wars. One group, one tribe, tries to usurp some territory — and now you guys have this territory, right? And you don’t like having it stolen away from you, the way white people stole everything else from black America. We get it, okay? And we apologize. But what good does it do, if we perpetually fall into the same, predictable little euphemistic tap dance around the topic?
Kevin: You know how to tap dance?
Steve: See? See what he’s doing?!!
Lindsey: Maybe quit while you’re ahead.
Steve: No. I’m sick of — No. Every single word we say is — is — is scrutinized for some kind of latent — Meanwhile you guys run around saying n-word this and n-word that and whatever. We all know why there’s a double standard but I can’t even so much as repeat a fucking joke that the one black guy I know told me —

Related Characters: Lindsey (speaker), Steve (speaker), Lena (speaker), Kevin (speaker)
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

Steve:… Are you “offended”?
Kevin: Nope.
Steve: Neither am I.
Lindsey: You can’t be offended, you moron —
Steve:…I can’t?
Lindsey: — because you’ve never been politically marginalized, unlike the majority of people in the world —
Steve: How can a majority be marginal?
Lindsey: — and, by the way, all women, everywhere, and it’s your classic white male myopia that you’re blind to that basic fact.
Lena: Why is a white woman like a tampon?
Lindsey: Why is what?
Lena: It’s a joke.

Related Characters: Lindsey (speaker), Steve (speaker), Lena (speaker), Bev Stoller, Karl Linder, Francine, Kathy, Kevin
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Well you’re being an idiot. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the rest of the world has begun a more sophisticated conversation about this topic than you apparently are qualified to participate in at this incredible moment in history. I mean, I used to date a black guy. So what? I mean, seriously. Steve. Wake up.

Related Characters: Lindsey (speaker), Steve, Lena, Kevin
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

Lindsey: Well, I want to say this: I want to say I feel angry. And I’m basically kind of hurt by the implication that’s been made that, just because we want to live as your neighbors and raise a child alongside yours, that somehow, in the process of doing that, we’ve had our ethics called into question. Because that is hurtful.

Related Characters: Lindsey (speaker), Lena (speaker), Steve, Kevin
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:
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Clybourne Park PDF

Lena Character Timeline in Clybourne Park

The timeline below shows where the character Lena appears in Clybourne Park. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
...couple named Steve and Lindsey, and their lawyer, Kathy, and a black couple named Kevin and Lena, and their lawyer, Tom. (full context)
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...it much taller than it already is. They have decided to meet with Kevin and Lena to discuss restrictions the neighborhood association has proposed on making changes to the area’s historic... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...his plans might be rejected. While Kathy talks on the phone, Lindsey tells Kevin and Lena how much she loves the neighborhood, especially the location, which will radically reduce her commute.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...Northern Africa—Morocco, Spain, Prague, and Switzerland. Kevin and Kathy do most of the talking. Eventually Lena tries to make an announcement, but Steve cuts her off, wanting to wait for Lindsey.... (full context)
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Lena tries again to make her announcement, but is again interrupted when Kathy asks to be... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
...was so run-down she would rather build a new one. Tom explains that Kevin and Lena called him when they realized Lindsey and Steve planned to build a house fifteen feet... (full context)
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...diggers hit something as they started working on a filtration system for a koi pond. Lena suggests everyone turn off his or her phone. Steve suggests getting back to business, but... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...told Steve a joke, which he wants to tell, but which Lindsey thinks is inappropriate. Lena interrupts again, more aggressively. Kathy, who has been checking her voicemails, and Tom, who was... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Now that the room is finally silent, Lena can say what she’s been meaning to say. She explains that she grew up in... (full context)
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Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Steve immediately asks if when Lena discusses the value of the neighborhood she means historical or monetary. Lena clarifies that she... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Lena asks Lindsey to clarify, but before she can answer Steve and Kathy begin to talk... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...and which spins off into a conversation about Jewish ghettos in Prague, and then to Lena and Kevin’s trip to Prague and Switzerland. Kevin wonders if Steve skis, which makes Lindsey... (full context)
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
...tries to turn the conversation back to the document, but they immediately get off track. Lena apologizes for taking up time, and explains she wasn’t trying to “romanticize” poverty, she just... (full context)
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Lena wonders if the house was affordable for her aunt because of the suicide of the... (full context)
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Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Lindsey argues that neighborhoods change with time, but Lena asks her to consider who is responsible for changing the neighborhood now, and what the... (full context)
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Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Steve interjects that Lena should just come out and say what she’s trying to say instead of “doing this... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...Steve as he continues to insist race was clearly a factor in the various issues Lena brought to the table. He mocks the “secret conspiracy” Lena has brought up, which she... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
...are naturally territorial, and individual “tribes” don’t like it when their territory is stolen. When Lena points out that her ancestors were literally private property, Steve offers a grand, insincere apology... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...“you guys” can say the “n—word” but he can’t even tell one joke. Kevin and Lena insist he tell it if he wants to so badly, though Lindsey continues to protest... (full context)
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Lena says she’s not offended, but she finds the joke unfunny, while Lindsey continues to argue... (full context)
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Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Lena ends the conversation when she offers her own joke—how are white women like tampons. Kevin... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
...for Lindsey, who is hurt because she feels her “ethics” have been “called into question.” Lena says she isn’t questioning Lindsey’s ethics, but instead her taste. Tom and Kathy leave, making... (full context)
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Kevin ushers Lena out, and tells Steve and Lindsey they should just communicate through lawyers from now on.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...hand on Kevin’s shoulder. Angry, Kevin says “don’t you touch me,”  and Dan backs off. Lena and Kevin turn to each other, as do Lindsey and Steve. The two couples engage... (full context)
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...but she plans on living in the house they’ve purchased. At this point Kevin and Lena have left, and Steve and Lindsey begin to gather their things and fold the chairs... (full context)