Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The most prominent theme in Awake and Sing! is financial insecurity/poverty. Set during the Great Depression, the play follows Bessie Berger and her family as they struggle to survive the economic collapse. Bessie is quite bothered by the sight of people being evicted from their homes and their belongings being tossed into the street.

Another theme is idealism vs. realism. Many of the men in Bessie's family are idealists who push for socialism. However, Bessie is more of a realist who focuses on running their home as best as she can.

A theme seen throughout the play is materialism, and this is particularly seen in Ralph, Bessie's son. He complains about the material things he doesn't have, such as skates and tap shoes. Two other characters who represent materialism are Uncle Morty and Moe. Uncle Morty's business thrives despite the state of the economy, and he shows this off by driving a nice car and smoking Cuban cigars. Moe, despite having a disability pension after losing his leg in the First World War, steals in order to live in luxury.

Bessie also represents the theme of family. She strives to keep her family united and defends each person's character. Another character who represents family is Blanche, a young girl who is constantly placed with other family members because her mother is unable to care for her.

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