American Dream

by: Edward Albee

Grandma

The ironic commentator of the play, Grandma stands in for the figure of the "absurdist" dramaturge, ultimately exiting the frame of the action to become its director. This surprising exit and her immediate crossing between the space of the action and the space of the theater is prefigured by her marginal position in the household, what Albee offers as an allegory for the "American Scene".

In her many sardonic epigrams, Grandma will position herself—as an "old person—at the margins of human intercourse, a figure considered "obscene" in the social theater. For example, social intercourse is violently fatal: old people die as a result of the way people talk to them. Grandma's marginality necessarily sets her apart from the spectacle before her. Notably, she is the only character to underline the fact that she is staging a masquerade, what she describes as her "act".

Grandma's defenses against the violence of social intercourse more precisely define many of what critics have vaguely touted as The American Dream's most "absurdist" moments. These defenses are nevertheless "absurd" in the truest sense, involving her apparent deafness, senility, memory lapses, epigrammatic wit, and general obscenity. This decidedly anti-social obscenity (L. ob- scaenus, off-scene) prefigures her departure from the household and "American Scene", Grandma literally becoming a commentator on the action from the outside. Crossing the frame of the action, she directs the resolution of Mommy and Daddy's dilemma and interrupts them to conclude the play, offering the audience a farewell that pointedly delivers the party up to its judgment.