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The Other Membro Esterno Alla Famiglia – Mrs Barker

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    Is a vane, worthless and pathetic social worker in constant search for acceptance and who has no morals of her own. She represents the populistic and apathetic view of the world many people have, she can’t formulate an original opinion, nor she is capable of any sort of real critique. Daddy and Mommy are both different responses to the void of modern life, the first one being a fatalistic and resigned weak man, ridiculously forgetful and lacking of any kind of resolution for anything in life whatsoever. He is paired with Mommy who is – on the other hand – manipulative and arrogant: essentially a bully, capable of both casual cruelty and nauseating flattery. She treats the “American Dream” – or Young Man – almost as a servant at her demands and identifies femininity with weakness, like when she reproaches her spineless husband with a:’You’re turning into jelly; you’re indecisive; you’re a woman’ (quote play p.75).

    She is Americanness at its finest. Finally, Grandma – pur essendo the oldest character – seems to be the only one having a positive and forward looking response to the existential vacuum presented by the others’ lives. With her realistic and cynic attitude she has found a way of make the absurdity of the modern world more bearable, discovering a creative response to the shallowness of reality and exercising her freedom through an attitude of brave realism and simple enjoyment of life with which one can conduct a respectable and worth living one. Non a caso, the author made her provide the ‘happy’ ending of the play, in which ‘everybody’s got what he thinks he wants’(quote fine play), ultimately defining the mirage of the American Dream. Mirage that clearly is synonym of hollowness for Albee, and that is not worth reaching because – being a dream – it could never be real.

    The Zoo Story (1961), on the other hand, focusing on the interaction between only two characters – a “prophet” and an everyman – describes a perfect image of the basic loneliness of men, desperately trying to hide it surrounding themselves with material possessions, perfectly portraying the ‘brightly-packaged emptiness of the modern landscape’. Here, Albee unfolds his critique on human condition cleverly setting his play in a naturalistic environment – on a bench in a park – but embedding the story with symbols and allegories – the zoo where everyone is caged in their own way.

    Peter is a middle class ordinary man who perfectly fits in society but who is inevitably trapped – and protected – by the “bars” of his own cage, made of material possessions and shallow relationships. Every element of his common life is merely a prop apt to embellish an otherwise empty and false – but impeccably average – existence. Jerry, on the other hand, represents the animalistic, instinctive part every human being has and should fight to release. He is fully aware of his condition and constantly questioning it through getting rid of material possessions and useless relationships in favour of the higher purpose of looking for answers about the essential nature of men. Just like a prophet – almost a modern messiah – Jerry identifies himself with the outcast and afflicted, trying to establish a connection with his “disciple” and illuminate him with his “gospel”.

    Jerry wants Peter to question and reject his hollow life – and the priorities and values he believes to be valuable – literally immolating himself for the man’s salvation. Albee sees the American way of life as one in which usual human traits and values are deprived of meaning and the entire human experience as a zoo story composed by a multitude of people hopelessly trying to change their condition in it. Every American lives in a “dream state” that they have custom made from pop culture and common ideas. In this set up the main aspiration is to achieve material symbols of success – a stable employment, a suburban home, a happy marriage… – that are inevitably bound up with a sense of self worth and without which the flawless, constructed concept of an ideal but unrealistic life.

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    The Other Membro Esterno Alla Famiglia – Mrs Barker. (2022, Apr 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-other-membro-esterno-alla-famiglia-mrs-barker/

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