The American Dream

The Young Man Character Analysis

The Young Man is the last character to show up in the play, and in many ways he is the character most like a symbol. Unlike Mrs. Barker, who is aware that she has been summoned to the house but is uncertain of the reason why, The Young Man seems to have no idea what he’s doing at Mommy and Daddy’s house or how he got there in the first place. The Young Man is handsome but haunted, aware of his almost painfully good looks and willing to sell his body to the highest bidder. When prompted to do so by Grandma, who dubs him (based on his “midwestern” looks and charm) “the American Dream,” The Young Man reveals the truth of his painful past. Separated at birth from a twin brother, The Young Man has suffered great losses throughout his life—phantom “agonies,” the loss of physical and emotional sensation, and a crippling emptiness which prevents him from feeling anything but “cool disinterest.” It is suggested that The Young Man’s twin brother was the “bumble” Mommy and Daddy adopted and then murdered. The Young Man, then, seems to represent the hollowness of the American dream itself. The Young Man looks shiny and promising on the outside, but is completely devoid of substance on the inside. He goes along with whatever is asked of him, and will sell himself out for cash, taking on any task, no matter how debased or amoral. In the end, Grandma suggests Mrs. Barker present The Young Man to Mommy and Daddy as a surprise, giving both their visits to the apartment purpose. Mommy and Daddy welcome him warmly, stating that he’s much better than the “other” bumble. Everyone wants a piece of the American dream, Albee is saying, even if they know how empty it is, and how destabilizing and fruitless the pursuit of it will ultimately be.

The Young Man Quotes in The American Dream

The The American Dream quotes below are all either spoken by The Young Man or refer to The Young Man. 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

GRANDMA: My, my, aren’t you something!

YOUNG MAN: Hm?

GRANDMA: I said, my, my, aren’t you something.

YOUNG MAN: Oh. Thank you.

GRANDMA: You don’t sound very enthusiastic.

YOUNG MAN: Oh, I’m… I’m used to it.

GRANDMA: Yup . . . yup. You know, if I were about a hundred and fifty years younger I could go for you.

YOUNG MAN: Yes, I imagine so.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), The Young Man (speaker)
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

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GRANDMA: Boy, you know what you are, don’t you? You’re the American Dream, that’s what you are. All those other people, they don’t know what they’re talking about. You . . . you are the American Dream.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), The Young Man
Page Number: 108
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

YOUNG MAN: All the boxes are outside.

GRANDMA (a little sadly): I don’t know why I bother to take them with me. They don’t have much in them… some old letters, a couple of regrets… Pekinese… blind at that… the television… my Sunday teeth… eighty-six years of living… some sounds… a few images, a little garbled by now… and, well… (she shrugs) …you know… the things one accumulates.

Related Characters: Grandma (speaker), The Young Man (speaker)
Related Symbols: Grandma’s Boxes
Page Number: 120
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

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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The Young Man Character Timeline in The American Dream

The timeline below shows where the character The Young Man appears in The American Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The American Dream
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
...he’s “the van man,” and if he’s come to take her away to a home. The Young Man says he doesn’t know what Grandma’s talking about. (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Grandma admires The Young Man ’s good looks, and he tells her he’s “used to” such comments. Grandma says that... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Young Man asks who else is home, but Grandma tells him not to worry about it. She... (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... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Grandma tells The Young Man that he looks familiar, and he agrees that he is “a type.” Grandma asks The... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
The Young Man explains that he was born alongside an identical twin brother. The two had an almost... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Grandma compassionately tells The Young Man that she once knew someone very much like him. Grandma tells The Young Man that... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Cruelty and Complacency Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
...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 man.” Mrs. Barker indignantly asks The Young... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Grandma points to all the boxes scattered on the floor and asks The Young Man to take her things out to the van. The Young Man agrees and begins scooping... (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
...“dilemma” with Mommy and Daddy—Grandma believes she has found “the way out” for Mrs. Barker. The Young Man reenters to get the rest of the boxes and take them out. Grandma pulls Mrs.... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
The Breakdown of the Family Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
Grandma is alone for a moment, but soon The Young Man comes back in to tell her that all of the boxes are outside. Grandma says... (full context)
The Fallacy of The American Dream Theme Icon
Entertainment and Artifice Theme Icon
The Young Man enters the room, and Mrs. Barker welcomes him in, declaring him a “surprise” for Mommy... (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’ll send a bill in the mail. Mommy suggests they all toast The Young Man and celebrate his arrival. The Young Man says he’ll go to the kitchen and get... (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 whatever she likes—maybe even... (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
The Young Man reenters with a bottle of wine and five glasses. As Mommy counts the glasses, she’s... (full context)