Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523
Brighton Beach Memoirs is a comedy about a Jewish working-class family living in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. The first act begins at 6:30 p.m. in September, 1937, the second at 6:30 p.m. a week later. There is a single setting, the home of the Jerome family in Brighton Beach. The action moves from room to room, however, and even just outside the front door.
In the first act, Neil Simon establishes the problems that his characters are facing, as shown not only in dialogue and action but also in Eugene Jerome’s asides. Eugene’s function in the play is twofold. He is the protagonist, a teenager preoccupied with his own problems, and he is also an observer, making notes from which he will eventually write this play. One of the story lines deals with the Jerome family as an entity, about to break apart because of financial pressure and personal differences; the other focuses on Eugene, who sees himself as the family scapegoat but is even more disturbed about the onset of puberty.
The tension in the Jerome household is evident from the moment that the curtain rises. The small home is overcrowded, containing not only Jack and Kate Jerome and their sons, Stanley and Eugene, but also Kate’s widowed sister, Blanche Morton, and her two children, Nora and Laurie. Blanche earns some money through sewing, and Stanley turns over his wages to his parents, but it is Jack who provides most of the support for the family.
Hoping to acquire a husband so that she can move out, Blanche makes a date with a neighbor. Kate is appalled, both because the man drinks and because he is Irish. Nora also has a scheme, but it, too, meets with objections: None of the adults feels that she should quit school in order to try her luck on Broadway. The financial pressures are mounting. Jack has lost his extra job, and Stanley is on the verge of being fired.
When the second act begins, matters have worsened. Jack has had a mild heart attack. Stanley has lost his salary in a poker game. Nora is furious with her mother for blocking her way to stardom. Finally, the Irishman has indeed turned out to be an alcoholic. It is all too much for Kate. She tells Blanche how much she has always resented her and concludes by blaming her sister for Jack’s heart attack. Despite Jack’s intervention in the quarrel, Blanche begins to pack her bags. Meanwhile, Stanley goes off to join the Army.
Late that night, however, the breaches are healed. Nora and Blanche come to a new understanding, as do Blanche and Kate. Stanley returns, bringing money that he has earned at an extra job. He also presents Eugene with his heart’s desire, a picture of a naked woman. When Jack informs Kate that his cousins have escaped from Poland and will soon be in New York, she immediately begins making plans to take them in. The play ends with a triumphant announcement from Eugene: Now that he has seen a woman’s body, his puberty is over.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1385
Brighton Beach Memoirs begins as the lights come up on Eugene Jerome playing outside the family home. A voice like that of a radio sports announcer can be heard as Eugene goes through the motions of a mock baseball game. He is dressed in knickers, a shirt and tie, a faded and torn sweater, Keds sneakers, and a blue baseball cap. The house is a wooden frame building in a lower-middle-class district of Brooklyn, New York. The time is about half past six in the evening. Inside the house, Kate Jerome is setting the table for the supper meal. Kate’s sister, Blanche Morton, is occupied at the sewing machine; Laurie Morton is reading a book on the sofa. The general condition of the interior of the house suggests that this is a family struggling financially.
The audience discovers early...
(The entire section contains 3972 words.)
Unlock This Study Guide Now
Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Brighton Beach Memoirs study guide. You'll get access to all of the Brighton Beach Memoirs content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.
- Act Summaries
- Critical Essays
- Teaching Guide