Many of the issues and themes that arise in Saroyan’s play still have relevance in the early twenty-first century, such as searching for personal fulfillment, understanding what constitutes success, and defending against evil. Imagine that you are going to stage the play and set it in America today. Which features of the play will you change, and which ones will you keep the same? Explain your reasoning.
The 1930s saw labor unions gathering political strength and popularity. McCarthy and Krupp are friends in the play, but they are on opposite sides of a labor dispute: McCarthy may join a strike to keep a ship from being unloaded, and Krupp may have to protect workers who cross the picket lines to unload the ship. Choose an actual labor dispute of the 1930s, and create a chart outlining the arguments each side used to promote its agenda.
Blick, the vice cop, threatens Nick when he thinks there are prostitutes working at Nick’s bar. Investigate the history of prostitution in America. Has prostitution always been illegal? Are there places in the United States where prostitution is legal or is treated as a less serious crime than it is in other jurisdictions? Some people say that prostitution is a victimless crime. Write a brief essay explaining your position on this issue, using the information you have found about prostitution in America.
A number of characters leave the play and do not return. For example, Joe leaves at the end of the play, but it is unclear where he is going; Tom and Kitty leave for a life together, as do Elsie and Dudley. Choose one of these characters or couples and write a one-act play or short story about where they go after they leave Nick’s bar and what happens to them.