Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

You Can’t Take It with You, winner of the 1938 Pulitzer Prize, is a classic American stage comedy that deftly blends elements of farce, slapstick, whimsical humor, social commentary, and romance, together with a generous dash of good-natured optimism about the human condition. First staged in December, 1936, at a time when the United States was only beginning to recover from the bleakest days of the Great Depression, You Can’t Take It with You was the third play written by the team of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the most successful collaborators in the history of the American theater.

The play is set in New York City, in the Sycamore household, a zany little kingdom presided over by Grandpa Vanderhof, who thirty-five years before had decided that the world of business could get along quite nicely without him and has “been a happy man ever since.” Grandpa’s iconoclastic attitudes toward work, money, and happiness have obviously infected the entire household: As the stage directions announce, “This is a house where you do as you like, and no questions asked.” In the best tradition of “screwball” comedy, the family is made up almost completely of lovable eccentrics. Mrs. Sycamore, for example, has passed most of her time for eight years writing plays (with titles such as “Sex Takes a Holiday”), not from any deep artistic motives but only because a typewriter was delivered to the house one day by mistake. Mr....

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