Topics for Further Study

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  • Shepard incorporates many symbols into Buried Child in order to communicate deeper levels of meaning to his audiences. Consider the importance of Bradley's artificial leg, Dodge's baseball cap, and the blanket from the living sofa as symbols in the play. What might each one represent? How are they used by different characters? How do they affect your understanding of the play's plot?
  • Read another contemporary American family drama, such as Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, or August Wilson's Fences, and discuss the contrasting views of family each playwright presents in his work. Consider such things as: the responsibilities of parents; animosities among family members; sibling rivalries; and the effects of domestic violence.
  • Sam Shepard has been called a postmodern writer. Research postmodernism as a style in late-twentieth-century drama. What elements of postmodernism does Shepard incorporate in Buried Child? Which does he ignore?
  • Several scholars and critics pointed to corn and its harvest as one of the central images and ritual influences in Buried Child. Using an encyclopedia or the Internet, research the history of this important crop and try to find two to three examples of rituals associated with its planting and harvest. Be prepared to examine cultures as widely different as the ancient Egyptians, Europeans of the Middle Ages and the Native Americans of a few hundred years ago.

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