You Can't Take It with You

by George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart

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Look up a classic discussion of comedy—such as Aristotle's Poetics, Charles Baudelaire's On the Essence of Laughter, Sigmund Freud's Jokes and the Comic, or Northrop Frye's The Mythos of Spring: Comedy—and evaluate the form and content of You Can't Take It with You according to your chosen theorist's definition of comedy.

Read either Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" (1841) or the chapter "Economy" from Henry David Thoreau's Walden (1854). Consider how the ideas in your chosen text are reflected in You Can't Take It with You.

Compare and contrast Frank Capra's film adaption of You Can't Take It with You with Kaufman and Hart's original play. What alterations did Capra make which reflect his definition of family and community? How do the depictions of the business world in the play and film differ? Do the two versions emphasize the same political, economic, and social philosophies?

Research the living and working conditions of minority groups—such as African-Americans and Eastern European immigrants—in mid-1930s New York. What would life have been like for a real African-American domestic worker or a Russian escaping persecution? Find authentic accounts to compare with the joking stereotypes presented in Kaufman and Hart's play.

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