Horton Foote The Young Man from Atlanta
Award: Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Born in 1916, Foote is an American playwright, scriptwriter, and novelist.
For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 51.
Part of Foote's dramatic cycle "The Orphan's Home," The Young Man from Atlanta (1995) is noted for its examination of grief, family dynamics, and self-delusion. Set in the 1950s in Houston, Texas, the play centers on Will and Lily Dale Kidder following the death of their only son, Bill, who likely committed suicide. Refusing to discuss Bill's alleged homosexuality and the events surrounding his death, Will finds himself consumed with work; during the course of the play, however, Will is fired and replaced by a young executive-in-training. Meanwhile, to alleviate her grief, Lily Dale turns to religion and is comforted with stories of Bill's strong faith told by Bill's roommate, Randy Carter. Thankful for Randy's condolences and sympathetic to tales of his and his family's financial difficulties, Lily Dale gives him large sums of money despite her husband's protests and despite rumors that Randy took financial advantage of Bill and was his lover.
The Young Man from Atlanta has received a mixed reception. Negative reviews have faulted Foote's depiction of American society and quotidian concerns as limited in scope and criticized his colloquial dialogue as uninspired and clichéd. Other commentators, noting Foote's revelation of the truth surrounding Bill's death and lifestyle, have praised the work for its thematic focus on the American dream, blind optimism, self-denial, and the grieving process. The drama has also been lauded as an exercise in character development, a naturalistic piece succinctly evoking what is often thought to have been a more innocent time in contemporary American history, and an examination of the nature of familial ties and their inevitable secrets. Clive Barnes observed that The Young Man from Atlanta "is a simple, immensely satisfying play, crafted with elegance, alive with feeling, holding a mirror up if not to nature at least to the next best thing, our concept of nature."