Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 488

Reviewers of Blues for an Alabama Sky frequently focus on the play’s treatment of issues of race and gender in historical context. Freda Scott Giles, in the African American Review, compared Blues for an Alabama Sky to Cleage’s plays Flyin’ West (1992) and Bourbon at the Border (1997), commenting that, in all three, ‘‘Cleage seeks to bring us to grips with our American past and help us understand and acknowledge its impact on present conditions, especially with regard to issues of race and gender.’’

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As critics have also observed, in Blues for an Alabama Sky, Cleage focuses on the unknown figures in a specific historical era, the ordinary people who make, and are made by, history, yet remain nameless in official historical accounts. Marta J. Effinger, in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, points out that Blues for an Alabama Sky is an example of Cleage’s ‘‘obsession with history.’’ She notes that while Cleage makes reference to a number of notable figures from the Harlem Renaissance era, ‘‘it is clear that the play examines what happened to ordinary people when the Harlem Renaissance ended.’’ Giles concurs that in Blues for an Alabama Sky, as well as in several of Cleage’s other plays, ‘‘Great events are seen not through the eyes of leaders and celebrities, but through the experiences of the ordinary people who lived them.’’ As Effinger states, ‘‘the lives of black men and women’’ in this play ‘‘are dramatized as a struggle to gain access to the sparse opportunities in the early years of the Great Depression.’’

Critics also focus on the character of Angel as someone who ultimately does not take responsibility for the consequences of her actions, for her own life as well as for those around her. Giles comments that Angel, ‘‘accustomed to living in search of someone to take care of her, changes the lives of friends and lovers by...

(The entire section contains 488 words.)

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