Clybourne Park


Bruce Norris

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Themes and Colors
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Disability and Inclusion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Clybourne Park, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Race and Racism

The first act of Clybourne Park is written as a complement and response to Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play, A Raisin in the Sun. Raisin chronicles a black family’s experience of buying a house in a white neighborhood, and examines the discrimination the family faces from their new neighbors. In 1959, the Civil Rights Movement had yet to make many of its most significant advancements, although it had already overturned Brown v. Board of Education in…

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Neighborhoods and Ownership

The play presents two different opinions on who “owns” a neighborhood, and who should be allowed to dictate who will move in and how the neighborhood will grow and change.  The first argument is that the people already living in a neighborhood should have some agency and control over who moves in next. This is the stance favored by longstanding members of the community who are keeping their houses as others move in and out…

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Communication and Miscommunication

Most of the conversations in Clybourne Park break down at a certain point and devolve into trivia, arguments, shouting matches, or misunderstandings. Whether it is literal failures of communications (such as those revolving around Betsy, who is deaf) or more abstract breakdowns (like conversations derailing into crude joke telling), Clybourne Park is a whirlwind of words, few of which are picked up and accurately interpreted by the other characters on stage. However, communication—when it…

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Men, Women, and Gender Roles

Clybourne Park explores conventional gender roles, the bonds between women, and the dynamic between husbands and wives over the course of a half century. Conceptions of womanhood and manhood are different in 1959 and 2009, and those differences are played out onstage. In the first act especially, men are loud, women fragile, and motherhood highly valued. In the second act, these tropes are extended, but take on  slightly different, 21st century forms. From the first…

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Disability and Inclusion

Several characters in Clybourne Park deal with illness and disability, both visible and invisible. Especially in the first act of the play, which takes place in 1959, before any widespread conversation about disabilities and mental illness, able-bodied characters are unsure how to interact with those who are not mentally and physically well. Although mental illnesses and developmental and physical disabilities were as common then as they are today, in 1959 there was little social or…

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