Edward Albee’s At Home At The Zoo/The American Dream
When comparing the similarities between plays “At Home At The Zoo” and “The American Dream”, one main common theme would be a dysfunctional family - Edward Albee’s At Home At The Zoo/The American Dream introduction. However, with both plays come two different types of dysfunctional structures and how each family reacts from it. Playwright Edward Albee wrote both plays and are both written as a satire on the traditional American family. Albee himself has revealed that not only was he adopted, but that he never felt easy with his adoptive family. “I never felt comfortable with the adoptive parents. I don’t think they knew how to be parents. I probably didn’t know how to be a son, either”, states Albee. Achievement. org) The disconnect between Albee and his family is expressed through his work. In the one-act play “The American Dream”, we are introduced to Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma who are in their apartment, waiting for “they” to arrive. When “they” finally arrive, secrets of Mommy and Daddy are revealed, while Grandmas’ hidden agenda comes into play. While “The American Dream” displays a very dysfunctional family who do not really have an emotional connection for one another, Albee’s “At Home At The Zoo” displays a dysfunctional yet loving family in the form of Peter and Ann.
During the play, Peter and Ann try to communicate on their boring marriage and how it wasn’t always that way before they met one another. Having read through both plays, it is clear that Albee has expressed his values on family based from his own experiences and believes that no matter how it may look on the outside, there are always problems and difficulties lying inside. Written in 1960, “The American Dream” tells the story of Mommy and Daddy, who are waiting for the arrival of their company. We are also introduced to Grandma who also lives with them.
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There is an interesting dynamic between the three of them, as Mommy seems to be the dominant figure out of the three while this tends to completely emasculate Daddy. Grandma seems to have the most common sense out of the three, although she is completely overlooked by Mommy due to her age and seems to use that to her advantage throughout the course of the play. The more we are around these characters, the more sadistic and toxic they become. The relationship between Mommy and Grandma is chaotic at best as it becomes clear that Mommy would like nothing more than to send Grandma away. Now be good Grandma, or you know what will happen to you. You’ll be taken away in a van”(26). Although it is painfully obvious that Mommy would love to send her away, she tends to twist the truth and put the blame on Daddy. Grandma has her own share of hostility towards Mommy, insinuating that she is nothing more than a gold digger. “When she was no more than eight years old she used to climb up on my lap and say, in a sickening little voice, ‘When I gwo up, I’m going to mahwy a wich old man; I’m going to set my wittle were end right down in a tub o’ butter; that’s what I’m going to do. (15).
The two constantly threaten one another yet Mommy recalls a time where Grandma used to wrap her lunch boxes when she was a little girl. Interestingly, it is when Grandma finally does leave that Mommy begins to have a panic attack. Although they seem to be at each other’s throats, there also seems to be a soft spot that each one holds for the other. Another main focal point of the play is where Grandma reveals to Mrs. Baker, Mommy and Daddy’s “bumble of joy”. Throughout the play, we learn that Mommy and Daddy once had an adoptive child that they were not fond of and eventually mutilated. Well, for the last straw, it finally up and died; and you can imagine how that must have made them feel, their having paid for it and all”, states Grandma. (30) She reminds Mrs. Baker that she is their about Mommy and Daddy wanting satisfaction, meaning them wanting a new child that will meet their standards. This stems from Albee’s childhood and not getting along with his adoptive parents. It is when the young man shows up that Mommy and Daddy are satisfied with their new bumble as he shows no emotion or feeling, allowing the two to treat and raise him the way they believe is correct.
Albee has stated that his parents’ thought they did was best as parents, which may not have always been the right way but this is clearly express through “The American Dream”. In “At Home At The Zoo”, we look into the lives of Peter and Ann, who have two daughters together. Unlike Mommy and Daddy, Peter and Ann truly love each other and want to reconnect their marriage. Albee parodies most traditional American families, where taboo subjects were never really discussed with each spouse. At one point, Ann confronts Peter on his lack of aggressiveness in the bedroom. Why don’t we behave like that…like beasts?! Is it that we love each other too safely, maybe? That were secure? That were too…civilized? Don’t we ever hate one another? ” asks Ann. (21) Ann is showing that she still loves Peter but is just looking for a new way to create excitement in their lives. Peter responds to this by telling Ann about an orgy experience he had once during college. “I was bad, once. I was very bad. ” Says Peter. ( 22) They speak about past experiences and wanting to create new and exciting memories with one another in hopes of revitalizing their marriage.
Unlike Mommy and Daddy in “The American Dream”, Peter and Ann would like to eventually better themselves. Mommy and Daddy want what’s best for them in their mind, it’s their very own child that they can teat anyway they want. Mommy would send Grandma away and leave Daddy if it would lead to a better life for herself. Meanwhile, Peter and Ann, although dysfunctional in their own right, would like to fix their boring relationship and recreate wild moments from their past experiences. However, in both plays, Edward Albee showcases his view of the typical American family.
On the outside, families may seem together and functional, yet there is always chaos and turmoil. Mommy and Daddy try to put on a facade for Mrs. Barker, however, it is easily diminished by Grandmas’ crude comments. Peter at first seems to be very uncomfortable with the conversation Ann is trying to start but eventually starts carrying one of his own to prove to his wife that he an be an animal as she would like. Albee does a very good job of giving us two solid interpretations of the secrets of an American family and it is obvious that his values and beliefs are carried through these stories.