The American Dream

Mommy Character Analysis

Mommy is the cruel, domineering, self-centered driving force at the center of the play. Rumored to be based on Albee’s real-life adoptive mother, Mommy has very little regard for anyone but herself. She is obsessed with her own stories—stories of her past and present, both inane and nostalgic—but cares nothing about what anyone else has to say. She repeatedly steamrolls, emasculates, and patronizes her husband, Daddy, whom she openly admits she married only so that she could “live off” his money. She berates and belittles her live-in mother, Grandma, and constantly threatens to have her carted away by “the van man” to live in a nursing home. She talks snidely about her friend and neighbor Mrs. Barker’s wheelchair-bound husband right in front her, even as she chides Daddy and Grandma for not treating their “guest” well enough. Eventually, it is revealed that Mommy and Daddy, seeking to complete their family, once adopted a “bumble of joy” from Mrs. Barker’s adoption agency—a baby they mutilated routinely when it acted in ways that displeased them until it “up and died.” It’s implied that Mommy was the mastermind behind the torture of the “bumble”—torture that began in earnest when the baby “only had eyes for its Daddy,” and Mommy in turn gouged out the baby’s eyes. Mommy’s larger-than-life, completely narcissistic persona is symbolic of the bombastic self-obsession at the heart of American society—and on a more personal note, is perhaps Albee’s way of reckoning with having had a vindictive adoptive mother who only wanted a certain kind of child. In many ways, even the more intimate reading of Mommy as a cipher for Albee’s mother speaks, too, to the hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness intrinsic to the American nuclear family—a unit obsessed with broadcasting a positive collective image at the expense of its individual members.

Mommy Quotes in The American Dream

The The American Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Mommy or refer to Mommy. 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:
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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:
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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:
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MRS. BARKER: Please tell me why they called and asked us to come. I implore you!

GRANDMA: Oh my; that feels good. It’s been so long since anybody implored me. Do it again. Implore me some more.

MRS. BARKER: You’re your daughter’s mother, all right!

GRANDMA: Oh, I don’t mean to be hard. If you won’t implore me, then beg me, or ask me, or entreat me… just anything like that.

MRS. BARKER: You’re a dreadful old woman!

GRANDMA: You’ll understand some day. Please!

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), Mrs. Barker (speaker), Mommy
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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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:
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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:
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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

MOMMY (Moving to the tray): So, let’s— Five glasses? Why five? There are only four of us. Why five?

YOUNG MAN (Catches GRANDMA’S eye; GRANDMA indicates she is not there): Oh, I’m sorry.

MOMMY: You must learn to count. We’re a wealthy family, and you must learn to count.

YOUNG MAN: I will.

Related Characters: Mommy (speaker), The Young Man (speaker), Grandma
Page Number: 126
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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Mommy Character Timeline in The American Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Mommy 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... (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... (full context)
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy says that the salespeople finally showed her a “lovely little hat” she did like. When... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy says that she returned to the hat shop to complain that they’d sold her a... (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... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...living room from the hallway, carrying many “neatly wrapped and tied” boxes of various sizes. Mommy asks Grandma what she’s carrying, and Grandma replies that they’re exactly what they look like—they’re... (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... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...once again says he feels sorry for Grandma, and is sad to have hurt her. Mommy brushes Grandma’s speech off, insisting the woman is senile and “doesn’t know what she means.” (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 wrapped boxes nicely—when Mommy was a little girl, the two... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy remembers that all the other children at school always thought she wouldn’t open her lunchbox... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy says she wishes she could put Grandma in a nursing home—she “can’t stand” watching the... (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... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...her “whimper[ing,]” he’s going to have a hard time getting back on her good side. Mommy chides Grandma for talking that way, but Grandma yells at Mommy to “shut up.” Grandma... (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 one who “makes all the trouble.” She tells Daddy he never should have... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy tells Grandma that she’s ashamed of her. Grandma retorts that Mommy should’ve “gotten rid” of... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy, as if reminded that they’re expecting people, asks where “they” could be and why “they”... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy tells Grandma to go to bed, and Grandma protests, saying she wants to stay in... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
The doorbell rings, and Mommy joyously announces that “they” have arrived. Grandma asks if “the van people” are at the... (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 going to happen. Mommy, though, tells him there’s no need—he has already been... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...doorbell rings once more, and Daddy announces that he is going to answer the door. Mommy remarks “WHAT a masculine Daddy” he is. As Daddy approaches the door, though, he slows... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
...in and make herself comfortable—though she’s late, he says, they were expecting her to be. Mommy urges Daddy not to be rude, and tells Mrs. Barker that they’ve been sitting around... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
...back some other time,” but Mrs. Barker replies that “we’re much too efficient for that.” Mommy urges Grandma to say hello to “them.” Grandma insists she can’t see anyone. Mrs. Barker... (full context)
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Daddy asks Mrs. Barker to sit down, and she does. Mommy offers her a cigarette and a drink, and asks if she’d like to “cross [her]... (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,... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...and going “sticky wet.” Mrs. Barker says she wants to light up a cigarette, but Mommy says firmly that there’s no smoking in the house. She asks Mrs. Barker to tell... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
...asks if she can assume that the family “had us come here for the boxes.” Mommy asks if Mrs. Barker often receives boxes. Mrs. Barker says that sometimes she receives baskets,... (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 feeling them around where the stitches... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...but Daddy insists he just had a regular operation. Mrs. Barker tells Daddy he’s lucky. Mommy says that though Daddy has long been dreaming of being a Senator, he now wants... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...who will listen all about her—he can hardly greet someone without mentioning that he’s married. Mommy and Daddy remark how lovely that is to hear, and Mrs. Barker says she thinks... (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
Grandma tries to speak up and say something, but Mommy urges her to be quiet, and tells Mrs. Barker to ignore Grandma because she is... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...asks if, since she “hardly count[s] as a woman” anymore, she can say her piece. Mommy decides to let her. Grandma says that the boxes have nothing to do with why... (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 have Grandma taken away—it’s too... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...she wishes Grandma would tell her. Daddy says Mrs. Barker is here because he and Mommy “called them.” Mrs. Barker says she’s still “puzzled” by why she’s here, and needs some... (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... (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.... (full context)
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...Mrs. Barker 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... (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
...story, and 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... (full context)
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
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...concludes her story, Daddy calls from upstairs and says that he can’t find the television. Mommy shouts back that she can’t find any water. Grandma laughs, muttering that she’d tried to... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Mommy tells Mrs. Barker to follow her into the kitchen to find a glass of water... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Mommy shouts into the living room from the kitchen, asking who has rung the doorbell. Grandma... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
...anything The 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... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Grandma 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... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
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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... (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
Grandma 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... (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.”... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...Man enters 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... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy thanks Mrs. Barker profusely, and Mrs. Barker says she’ll send a bill in the mail.... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Mommy asks what The Young Man’s name is, but Mrs. Barker tells her to call him... (full context)
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The Young Man reenters with a bottle of wine and five glasses. As Mommy counts the glasses, she’s confused—there are only four of them there. The Young Man looks... (full context)