You Can't Take It with You Analysis

Form and Content (Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

You Can’t Take It with You, winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize, is a classic American stage comedy that deftly blends elements of farce, slapstick, whimsical humor, social commentary, and romance, together with a generous dash of good-natured optimism about the human condition. First staged in December, 1936, at a time when the United States was only beginning to recover from the bleakest days of the Great Depression, You Can’t Take It with You was the third play written by the team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the most successful collaborators in the history of the American theater.

The play is set in New York City, in the Sycamore household, a zany little kingdom presided over by Grandpa Vanderhof, who thirty-five years before had decided that the world of business could get along quite nicely without him and has “been a happy man ever since.” Grandpa’s iconoclastic attitudes toward work, money, and happiness have obviously infected the entire household: As the stage directions announce, “This is a house where you do as you like, and no questions asked.” In the best tradition of “screwball” comedy, the family is made up almost completely of lovable eccentrics. Mrs. Sycamore, for example, has passed most of her time for eight years writing plays (with titles such as “Sex Takes a Holiday”), not from any deep artistic motives but only because a typewriter was delivered to the house one day by mistake. Mr....

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You Can't Take It with You Historical Context

In the mid-1930s when Kaufman and Hart wrote You Can't Take It with You, Americans were suffering through one of the worst economic...

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You Can't Take It with You Literary Style

You Can't Take It with You has three well-balanced acts. Act I introduces the members of the eccentric Vanderhof-Sycamore family and...

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You Can't Take It with You Compare and Contrast

1930s: During the Great Depression unemployment reaches a high of 20% in 1935. In 1938, unemployment is at 19.1%, which...

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You Can't Take It with You Topics for Further Study

Look up a classic discussion of comedy—such as Aristotle's Poetics, Charles Baudelaire's On the Essence...

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You Can't Take It with You Media Adaptations

Frank Capra produced and directed an Academy Award-winning film version of You Can't Take It with You. The film stars James Stewart...

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You Can't Take It with You What Do I Read Next?

Harvey, Mary Coyle Chase's 1944 comedy. This play, like You Can't Take It with You, won a Pulitzer Prize,...

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You Can't Take It with You Bibliography and Further Reading

Further Reading
Atkinson, Brooks. "The Giddy Twenties" in his Broadway, MacMillan (New York), 1970, pp...

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You Can't Take It with You Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Brown, John Mason. “The Sensible Insanities of You Can’t Take It with You.” In Two on the Aisle: Ten Years of the American Theatre in Performance. New York: W. W. Norton, 1938.

Goldstein, Malcolm. George S. Kaufman: His Life, His Theater. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Gould, Jean. “Some Clever Collaborators: George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.” In Modern American Playwrights. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1966.

Harriman, Margaret Case. “Hi-yo Platinum! Moss Hart.” In Take Them Up Tenderly: A Collection...

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