Clifford Odets is generally regarded as one of the most talented playwrights to emerge from the Depression generation. In his mid-twenties he became one of the founders of the Group Theatre, the most exciting and innovative American theater group of the period, and its dominant playwright. In the spirit of the times, Odets quickly established himself as a volatile political dramatist with such intense theatrical statements as Waiting for Lefty (1935), Till the Day I Die (1935), Awake and Sing! (1935), and Paradise Lost (1935). Although admitting that Golden Boy was consciously written “to be a hit” and shore up the sagging finances of the Group Theatre, Odets insisted that it, too, was an anticapitalist social play. To a modern audience, however, the personal tragedy of Joe Bonaparte is the most important concern of the drama.
In essence, Golden Boy is a variation on the theme of the man who sells himself for success and discovers, too late, that he has made a bad bargain. A poor Italian youth coming of age in the middle of the Depression, Joe knows that he can find personal satisfaction playing the violin, but the bitterness in his feelings of poverty, coupled with a desire for revenge against people who have scorned him for years, drives him into opting for fighting instead of music.
At first, he boxes gingerly, trying to protect his hands for his music, but by the end of the first...
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