Sam Shepard’s Curse of the Starving Class at first reading is a very strange play. The playwright seems not to have been able to decide whether he wanted to write a realistic social protest play or a symbolic drama, and the characters also are at times little more than stock types from gangster movies. But a closer look at this play reveals that it is a very sophisticated drama that seeks to link deep archetypal themes of human suffering and fate to very specific and contemporary political and social issues. The family whose plight is dramatized are indeed beset by a curse about which they can do nothing, but Shepard refuses to specify what that curse is. The play is clearly a symbolic drama, but it is no allegory; the symbols are used more for their resonance and imagistic power than for any one-to-one correspondence with the themes of the play. The play is fragmented, decentered, at times incoherent. Parts of it seem lifted from B-grade movies; other parts seem like Greek tragedy barely altered. In this pastiche lies the play’s power.