Clifford Odets American Literature Analysis
Critics are beginning to reconsider the full body of Clifford Odets’s writing. Because he was initially viewed as a proletarian playwright, many critics expected him to write proletarian plays forever. When this expectation was not met, they were disappointed. The overt anger, vigor, and vitality of the early plays was lacking in the later ones, largely because a changing society had robbed Odets of the topic he was most effective in writing about, the exploitation of working-class people by capitalists.
Odets might have redirected his anger to other topics in the 1940’s and 1950’s—the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings (by which he was personally affected), the Joseph McCarthy witch hunts, U.S. involvement in the Korean War, government waste, women’s rights, racial discrimination, and anti-Semitism. A number of contemporary playwrights have taken on such topics.
Had Odets followed such a course, his anger might not have been viewed as genuine. Odets had moved into a new socioeconomic sphere, but doing so did not preclude his writing important and meaningful plays. Critics argue that Odets did not do his most effective writing in Rocket to the Moon, Night Music, or Clash by Night. He wrote these plays during a period of considerable personal upheaval, but even in them, he shows considerable concern for working people.
A seven-year gap followed the production of Clash by...
(The entire section is 2430 words.)
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