Family Betrayal in Myth and Modernist / Post-Modernist Drama Term Paper

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Family Betrayal in Myth, Modernist, and Post-Modernist Drama

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Although Susan Hazen Hammond's short story "The Kidnapped Wife and the Dream Helper," Arthur Miller's drama "All My Sons," and P.J. Gibson's play "Long Time Since Yesterday" all dramatize the struggles of individuals trapped in uncomfortable family relationships that they discover are full of mistaken assumptions and lies, the three works contain vastly different conceptions of what constitutes the human character, and how a character should be dramatized over the course of a story. Hammond's tale is a retelling of a Native American myth. The character, even the most dynamic character of the piece that of the male warrior, father, and husband, is not what a modern reader would call a well-rounded character. He is compltetly 'bad' at the beginning of the piece, ignoring his wife, then suddenly shifts to being a 'good' character, in the quest to recover her. In the Miller piece, Joe Keller and his son Christ are depicted as far more complex, psychologically rounded characters. Joe Keller wants to do good things, and help his family prosper, but he commits evil actions in his quest. Unlike the Native American fable, character, and the failures of character drive the plot of the tale. Finally, the Gibson work, takes a post-modernist view of the characters of Janeen and Layer. The play is a 'memory play,' dramatizing the differences between how we remember the past and the reality of the past. The play is not action-driven, like the myth, or even driven by poor decision-making, rather it seeks to probe the question of what makes a good life, without providing a final answer.

Term Paper on Family Betrayal in Myth and Modernist / Post-Modernist Drama Assignment

At the beginning of the Hammond fable, the man of the tale is a feckless, reckless warrior. All he cares about is winning a battle. He does not value his wife's love, and allows her to accompany him only grudgingly as he rides into the fray. He pushes her farther and farther away on the back of his horse. This symbolizes the distance the man desires to keep between himself and all feminine influences. Eventually, however, he loses her. By failing to value his wife and the mother of his child, he loses her influence in his life entirely. He wins great, masculine military glory but this is meaningless to him without his wife. He realizes that he has lost what he values most in the world. Then, the man goes out in search of his wife. He is warned about the danger of doing so. However, the man decides that life is not worth living without love.

This change in the man's value system occurs very suddenly. The only consistency in character is his bravery, in battle, and in searching for his lost wife. The character of the man, and even more so the character of the woman, seems static, and representational, rather than complex. Rather than doubt his actions, the man is either entirely given over of fighting in battle, or entirely devoted to searching for his wife. There is no middle ground. This is why the tale strikes the reader as a fable, rather than a psychologically realistic portrayal. The man's selfish character instigates the drama of the tale, but it is resolved in a conventional, fairytale like formula.

In contrast, the characters of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons" are fully dimensional. Joe Keller, the patriarch of the Keller clan, made a terrible decision. In seeking to build a successful munitions firm, he ignored a very evident defect in one of the parts he was manufacturing. This resulted in the death of many American servicemen, and also drove his son Joe to apparently commit suicide, when he heard about his father's trial. Keller wanted to create a successful, happy American family and live the American dream. However, to do so, he acted carelessly and recklessly, and caused the destruction of many young men's future lives. He also destroyed the family he was seeking to build, much like the man in Hammond's short story. But unlike the anonymous man, Keller is never entirely bad or good. He knows what he did was wrong, but covers up the moral implications of his bad actions with rationalization and a show of anger. When he sees… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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