The American Dream

Daddy Character Analysis

Where Mommy is authoritative, domineering, and self-aggrandizing, Daddy is sheepish, suggestible, and self-deprecating. Daddy is a wealthy man who tries his best to ignore his frivolous yet cruel wife’s antics, going along with whatever she asks of him out of a desire to keep the peace. At the same time, Daddy is insecure about his masculinity, and often asks Mommy to confirm that he is “decisive and masculine,” even as he whines and begs for her approval and her support in his decisions. Daddy is something of a hollow character—he often seems to exist only in response to Mommy and Grandma, and the few times he does speak his own mind, he complains about being surrounded by women and feeling disenchanted by the lack of “satisfaction” available in society lately. At the same time, Daddy never explains what “satisfaction” would mean to him—he gripes about the compromised state of society without seeming to really participate in that society. Daddy seems to be the most passive character in the entire play until The Young Man comes along and mirrors Daddy’s hollowness and agreeability. By framing the women characters as motivators of action, arbiters of change, and indeed the heads of their households, while framing the men in the play as husks of their former selves, Albee is toying with reversed gender roles and a redistribution of the power typically granted to men. This reversal reflects the changing dynamics in American society—and in American families—at the time of the play’s composition, and is perhaps Albee’s way of lampooning male fears of female empowerment.

Daddy Quotes in The American Dream

The The American Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Daddy or refer to Daddy. 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:
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Plume edition of The American Dream published in 1997.
The American Dream Quotes

MOMMY: I don’t know what can be keeping them.

DADDY: They’re late, naturally.

MOMMY: Of course, they’re late; it never fails.

DADDY: That’s the way things are today, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

MOMMY: You’re quite right.

DADDY: When we took this apartment, they were quick enough to have me sign the lease; they were quick enough to take my check for two months’ rent in advance… […] But now! But now, try to get the icebox fixed, try to get the doorbell fixed, try to get the leak in the johnny fixed! […]

MOMMY: Of course not; it never fails. People think they can get away with anything these days…

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 57-58
Explanation and Analysis:
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GRANDMA: I didn’t really like wrapping them; it hurt my fingers, and it frightened me. But it had to be done.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), Mommy, Daddy
Related Symbols: Grandma’s Boxes
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

DADDY: I think we should talk about it some more. Maybe we’ve been hasty… a little hasty, perhaps. (Doorbell rings again) I’d like to talk about it some more.

MOMMY: There’s no need. You made up your mind; you were firm; you were masculine and decisive. […]

DADDY: Was I firm about it?

MOMMY: Oh, so firm; so firm.

DADDY: And I was decisive?

MOMMY: SO decisive! Oh, I shivered.

DADDY: And masculine? Was I really masculine?

MOMMY: Oh, Daddy, you were so masculine; I shivered and fainted. […]

DADDY: (Backing off from the door) Maybe we can send them away.

MOMMY: Oh, look at you! You’re turning into jelly; you’re indecisive; you’re a woman.

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Daddy (speaker)
Page Number: 74-75
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

MRS. BARKER: Can we assume that the boxes are for us? I mean, can we assume that you had us come here for the boxes?

MOMMY: Are you in the habit of receiving boxes?

DADDY: A very good question.

MRS. BARKER: Well, that would depend on the reason we’re here. I’ve got my fingers in so many little pies, you know.

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Daddy (speaker), Mrs. Barker (speaker), Grandma
Related Symbols: Grandma’s Boxes
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
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MOMMY: All his life, Daddy has wanted to be a United States Senator; but now…why now he’s changed his mind, and for the rest of his life he’s going to want to be Governor…it would be nearer the apartment, you know.

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Daddy, Mrs. Barker
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

MOMMY: Oh, I’m so fortunate to have such a husband. Just think; I could have a husband who was poor, or argumentative, or a husband who sat in a wheel chair all day… OOOOHHHH! What have I said? What have I said?

GRANDMA: You said you could have a husband who sat in a wheel…

MOMMY: I’m mortified! I could die! I could cut my tongue out! I could…

MRS. BARKER (forcing a smile): Oh, now… now… don’t think about it…

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Grandma (speaker), Mrs. Barker (speaker), Daddy
Page Number: 92-93
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

GRANDMA: Weeeeellll . . . in the first place, it turned out the bumble didn’t look like either one of its parents. That was enough of a blow, but things got worse. One night, it cried its heart out, if you can imagine such a thing.

MRS. BARKER: Cried its heart out! Well!

GRANDMA: But that was only the beginning. Then it turned out it only had eyes for its Daddy.

MRS. BARKER: For its Daddy! Why, any self-respecting woman would have gouged those eyes right out of its head.

GRANDMA: Well, she did. That’s exactly what she did. But then, it kept its nose up in the air.

MRS. BARKER: Ufggh! How disgusting!

GRANDMA: That’s what they thought. But then, it began to develop an interest in its you-know-what.

MRS. BARKER: In its you-know-what! Well! I hope they cut its hands off at the wrists!

GRANDMA: Well, yes, they did that eventually. But first, they cut off its you-know-what.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), Mrs. Barker (speaker), Mommy, Daddy
Page Number: 99-100
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

YOUNG MAN: I have suffered losses . . . that I can’t ex­plain. A fall from grace . . . a departure of innocence . . . […] Once ... it was as if all at once my heart. . . became numb . . . almost as though I . . . almost as though . . . just like that . . . it had been wrenched from my body . . . and from that time I have been un­able to love. Once […] I awoke, and my eyes were burning. And since that time I have been unable to see anything, anything, with pity, with affection . . . with anything but . . . cool disinterest.

Related Characters: The Young Man (speaker), Mommy, Daddy, Grandma
Page Number: 114-115
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

YOUNG MAN: I have no emotions. I have been drained, torn asunder… disemboweled. I have, now, only my per­son… my body, my face. I use what I have... I let people love me…I accept the syntax around me, for while I know I cannot relate... I know I must be related to. I let people love me… I let people touch me… I let them draw pleasure from my groin… from my presence… from the fact of me… but, that is all it comes to.

Related Characters: The Young Man (speaker), Mommy, Daddy, Grandma
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

MOMMY: Why… where’s Grandma? Grandma’s not here! Where’s Grandma? And look! The boxes are gone, too. […]

MRS. BARKER: Why, Mommy, the van man was here. […]

MOMMY (Near tears): No, no, that’s impossible. No. There’s no such thing as the van man. […] We… we made him up. Grandma? Grandma?

DADDY (Moving to MOMMY): There, there, now. […]

(While DADDY is comforting MOMMY, GRANDMA comes out, stage right, near the footlights)

GRANDMA (To the audience): Shhhhhh! I want to watch this.

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Daddy (speaker), Grandma (speaker), Mrs. Barker (speaker)
Related Symbols: Grandma’s Boxes
Page Number: 121-122
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

MOMMY (Herself again, circling THE YOUNG MAN, feeling his arm, poking him): Yes, sir! Yes, sirree! Now this is more like it. Now this is a great deal more like it! Daddy! Come see. Come see if this isn’t a great deal more like it.

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), Daddy, Grandma, Mrs. Barker, The Young Man
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

GRANDMA (Interrupting… to audience): Well, I guess that just about wraps it up. I mean, for better or worse, this is a comedy, and I don’t think we’d better go any further. No, definitely not. So, let’s leave things as they are right now . . . while everybody’s happy . . . while everybody’s got what he wants. . . or everybody’s got what he thinks he wants. Good night, dears.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), Mommy, Daddy, Mrs. Barker, The Young Man
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Daddy Character Timeline in The American Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Daddy appears in The American Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The American Dream
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
In the living room of a quintessential American home, Mommy and Daddy—a married couple in their middle age—sit together in their armchairs. They wonder what can be... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy begins telling Daddy a story about going out to buy a new hat the previous day, but Daddy... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...check the new hat in the natural light, determined it was beige, and bought it. Daddy clears his throat and suggests that the salespeople simply sold Mommy the same hat they’d... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Mommy asks why “they” are so late, and Daddy complains that he’s been trying to get the leak in the toilet fixed for two... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...replies that “that’s nobody’s damn business.” Mommy suggests Grandma put the boxes down next to Daddy, and Grandma promptly dumps them on and at Daddy’s feet. One they’ve all fallen, she... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy chides Daddy for saying such a “terrible” thing to Grandma, and Daddy apologizes. Grandma says she’s going... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy once again says he feels sorry for Grandma, and is sad to have hurt her.... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy points out how nicely Grandma has wrapped the boxes. Mommy says that Grandma has always... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...Mommy expresses gratitude that though she used to be very poor, ever since she married Daddy she’s been “very rich”—and even Grandma gets to “feel rich.” (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...stand” watching the old woman do all of the cooking and cleaning around the house. Daddy points out that Grandma likes to do these things, since they keep her moving and... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy keeps talking, describing how she has a “right” to live off of Daddy’s money, considering she often used let him “get on top of [her] and bump [his]... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...comes back into the living room carrying more boxes. Again, she dumps them all at Daddy’s feet, and then she says that’s all of them. Daddy remarks how nicely they’re wrapped,... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy says he’s sorry again, and Grandma accepts his apology—she says she knows Mommy is the... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...“gotten rid” of her “a long time ago” if that’s how she feels, and had Daddy put her in a home or set her up with a business somewhere far away.... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...to stay in the sitting room and “watch.” Mommy again insists Grandma go to bed. Daddy interjects and urges Mommy to “let” Grandma stay up and “watch,” since it’s barely noon.... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...arrived. Grandma asks if “the van people” are at the door to “take [her] away.” Daddy tells Grandma not to worry about such things, but Grandma replies that Daddy shouldn’t feel... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy says, once again, that he’d “like to talk […] some more” with Mommy about what’s... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
The doorbell rings once more, and Daddy announces that he is going to answer the door. Mommy remarks “WHAT a masculine Daddy”... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Daddy urges Mrs. Barker to come in and make herself comfortable—though she’s late, he says, they... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Daddy asks Mrs. Barker if she could perhaps go away and “come back some other time,”... (full context)
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Daddy asks Mrs. Barker to sit down, and she does. Mommy offers her a cigarette and... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy and Daddy ask Mrs. Barker what she does, and she replies that she is, obviously, the chairman... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy says that he’s blushing and going “sticky wet.” Mrs. Barker says she wants to light... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
...special circumstances.” She apologizes for not being able to give the family a better answer. Daddy says it’s a very interesting answer, but Mommy laments that it doesn’t help them at... (full context)
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Daddy says he’s feeling some “qualms.” Mommy asks where he’s feeling them, and he says he’s... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mrs. Barker asks Daddy what was wrong, but Daddy insists he just had a regular operation. Mrs. Barker tells... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mrs. Barker says she has a younger brother who’s ambitious, just like Daddy. He runs a newspaper called The Village Idiot and has a wonderful sense of humor.... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...her to be quiet, and tells Mrs. Barker to ignore Grandma because she is “rural.” Daddy suggests Mommy let Grandma speak up, but Mommy says that “old people have nothing to... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy says he wishes he weren’t surrounded by women. Mrs. Barker seconds his opinion. Grandma speaks... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Daddy yells for Grandma and Mommy to stop fighting. Mommy suggests Daddy call a van and... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...knows why Mrs. Barker has come. Mrs. Barker says she wishes Grandma would tell her. Daddy says Mrs. Barker is here because he and Mommy “called them.” Mrs. Barker says she’s... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mrs. Barker calls Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma a “jolly” family. She says she’s been “knee-deep” in work lately with all... (full context)
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy remarks what a great husband she has—Daddy isn’t poor or argumentative or in a wheelchair. Mommy is instantly mortified by what she’s... (full context)
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...says she feels “lost” and has no clue why she’s here now—or why Mommy and Daddy insist that she’s been here before. Grandma says that she was here before—not this apartment... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...says that about twenty years ago, a man and woman “very much like” Mommy and Daddy lived in an apartment “very much like” this one with an old woman “very much... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...“cried its heart out” day and night. When the baby “only had eyes for its Daddy,” the baby’s mother gouged its eyes out. When the baby discovered its “you-know-what,” they cut... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
As Grandma concludes her story, Daddy calls from upstairs and says that he can’t find the television. Mommy shouts back that... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...being stunned by the parallels between the characters in the story and herself, Mommy, and Daddy, and says she’ll have to “mull” things for a while. She goes into the kitchen,... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
...asking who has rung the doorbell. Grandma tells her that “The American Dream” is here. Daddy’s voice can be heard, asking what everyone’s shouting about—Mommy calls to him and tells him... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
...Young Man could do to help out around the house. She says that Mommy and Daddy have been in a “quandary” lately, and The Young Man might be able to help.... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
...beckons The Young Man close to her and tells him a secret: though Mommy and Daddy think she hasn’t left the house in eight years, she recently snuck out to enter... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mrs. Barker walks into the living room, lamenting that she can’t find Mommy or Daddy anywhere. She asks who The Young Man is, and Grandma introduces him as “the van... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...tells Mrs. Barker she needs to talk to her about the “dilemma” with Mommy and Daddy—Grandma believes she has found “the way out” for Mrs. Barker. The Young Man reenters to... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mrs. Barker, Mommy, and Daddy reenter the living room. Mrs. Barker tells them that “the whole thing’s settled.” Mommy and... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...the room, and Mrs. Barker welcomes him in, declaring him a “surprise” for Mommy and Daddy. Mommy is confused, but Daddy reminds her that they wanted a “bumble” and some “satisfaction.”... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...to call him whatever she likes—maybe even “what [she] called the other one.” Mommy asks Daddy to remind her what they did call the other one, but Daddy can’t remember. (full context)