Sam Shepard American Literature Analysis
Shepard has something of the American cowboy in him—the dreamer, the drifter, the outdoorsman, the individualist, the misfit. These traits are coupled with a deft linguistic touch, a visual imagination based on observation, and a sophisticated view of the value of myth in articulating the modern human condition. His works tend to be enigmatic; they seem almost right but somehow off the mark, as though too much reality would get in the way of Shepard’s describing the chaos of actual day-to-day existence. Shepard is obsessed with a “loss” of some kind, often identified by critics as the failure of the American spirit, of “America in flames,” or as the dilemma of the rugged individual consumed by high technology in a world too complex for individual achievement and success.
Shepard’s heroes are, if not sociopaths, at least angry and isolated loners, always bordering on the violent; when this violence is turned against women, the plays get frighteningly sadistic. There is an edge of Old Testament righteousness gone sour, as though too strict an upbringing has evoked a rebel response—but with an underlying need for rules just under the dialogue.
The structure of the plays is imperfect. Superficially realistic in the later works, but stylized and theatrical in the earlier works, the plays move quickly into what has been called suprarealism, an enlarged version of realistic, detailed life that somehow transcends itself to speak,...
(The entire section is 5573 words.)
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