Paradise Lost Summary (Clifford Odets)

Clifford Odets


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Odets thought better of Paradise Lost than most Broadway critics did. The play, although disappointing in many respects, is significant for its almost flawless development of the character of Sam Katz, the dishonest business partner of Leo Gordon, the head of the Gordon household. Odets considered Paradise Lost the most profound of his four dramatic productions to that time. Joseph Wood Krutch, a leading critic of the 1930’s, on the other hand, called the play a mere burlesque on Awake and Sing!, although that criticism was probably more harsh than the play deserved.

Odets, in this play, attempted to deal with the same problems of the Great Depression that had afflicted the Bergers in Awake and Sing!, but he chose to examine these problems from the perspective of a family of higher social standing than the Bergers. His differentiation is between the lower and upper middle class.

Whereas the Bergers could not afford to pay to have their son’s teeth fixed, the Gordons had grown used to a relatively comfortable existence and had managed to acquire a few luxuries, such as an expensive piano, in the years before the economic chaos of the early 1930’s. As in Awake and Sing!, Odets’s major focus in Paradise Lost encompasses a class of people. He writes about their aspirations, thwarted by forces outside their control. They essentially seem like pawns in a great malevolent chess game.


(The entire section is 429 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Brenman-Gibson, Margaret. Clifford Odets—American Playwright: The Years from 1906 to 1940. New York: Atheneum, 1981.

Cantor, Harold. Clifford Odets: Playwright-Poet. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2000.

Herr, Christopher J. Clifford Odets and American Political Theatre. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003.

Mendelsohn, Michael J. Clifford Odets: Humane Dramatist. Deland, Fla.: Everett/Edwards, 1969.

Miller, Gabriel, ed. Critical Essays on Clifford Odets. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991.

Murray, Edward. Clifford Odets: The Thirties and After. New York: Ungar, 1968.

Odets, Clifford. The Time Is Ripe: The 1940 Journal of Clifford Odets. New York: Grove Press, 1988.

Shuman, R. Baird. “Clifford Odets and the Jewish Context.” In From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Jewish-American Stage and Screen, edited by Sarah Blacher Cohen. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983.

Weales, Gerard. Clifford Odets: Playwright. New York: Pegasus, 1971.