Student Question

What time period is Sam Shepard's "Buried Child" set in?

Expert Answers

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Shepard's play, a striking metaphor about fertility, takes place in a very rural environment (probably the source of your classmates' impression), and is not imbedded in a social present that limits the mise-en-scene to a particular decade, as long as it is the 20th century.  The dramatic term some authors use in their notes is "the Present," meaning that the play can be staged in any contemporary setting.  Since there are no references to, for example, technology or politics, the decade of its actual writing is sufficient.  The point is that Shepard is bringing into the 20th century the age-old comparison (think Demeter) of earth fertility to the human cycle of life and death; the "burial" is compared to "planting" in the audience's mind.  If your thesis statement centers on the importance of the play's time-setting, you are on a fruitless quest (pun intended).

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