What is the meaning of "The American Dream" by Edward Albee?

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danylyshen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The traditional American dream was borrowed largely from 1950s American society. It was a dream of a large house, a large family, cars in the driveway, a white picket fence, and was a place where everyone had their place in society and contributed to the betterment of that society. In the play Grandma is the wise one, the old American dream which stood for hard work, perserverance, and going without. Grandma says that those who understand the American dream in its original form are wrong. The real American dream is the young man at the door. He is everything we want or think we want. He is, she seems to be saying, a model, the embodiment of the film star, the pop star, the television personality—young, beautiful, and perfect . The problem with such an American dream is that it is shallow, superficial, spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. The New American dream, the young man, suffers an absence and spiritual depravity. The long discussion with Grandma is evidence of this. He must "use his body" to relate because though "he cannot relate, he knows he must be related to." As the Young Man enters the play and is invited to stay, Mommy and Daddy (with Grandma's adept manipulations) have Grandma shipped off with the van man. It's as if the old American dream is phased out and is replaced with the new one. In this way, the cliched "out with the old; in with the new" gains validity and leaves us questioning whether newer is really better.

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The American Dream

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