The American Dream


Edward Albee

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The American Dream, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Fallacy of The American Dream

Edward Albee’s short play The American Dream, part of the post-World War II “Theatre of the Absurd” movement, is a convoluted and occasionally dreamlike piece that satirically skewers the idea of “the American dream.” A deeply personal play which draws on Albee’s own dissatisfaction with his strained, painful childhood, The American Dream expresses Albee’s desire to expose American idealism as a fallacy. Through the play, Albee argues that “the American dream”—opportunity, equality, success through…

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The Breakdown of the Family

Edward Albee drew on his own childhood traumas (as the adoptive son of parents he could never seem to impress) in composing The American Dream—a play which takes a less-than-generous look at the darkness and unrest simmering just below the surface of a typical American family. Given the societal and sexual revolutions looming on the horizon during the time Albee was composing the play, it stands to reason that his absurdist drama would skewer…

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Cruelty and Complacency

All of the characters within The American Dream are wrestling with small and large acts of cruelty—acts they both endure and perpetrate. From Mommy’s steamrolling, domineering emasculation of Daddy to Daddy’s disregard for and disinterest in Mommy to the constant threats both of them make against Grandma—threats to have her removed from her home by “the van man”—there is no shortage of cruelty in the household depicted in the play. As the action…

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Entertainment and Artifice

Edward Albee’s The American Dream is part of a movement called “Theatre of the Absurd”—plays written in the decades following the end of World War II which used heightened reality, absurdism, and breaking of the “fourth wall” between the stage and the audience to highlight the irrationality of society, entertainment, and the intersection of the two. The world, absurdist playwrights knew, was plunged into a strange and dangerous new era in the wake of the…

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