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American Dream | Study Guide

Edward Albee

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American Dream | Quotes


I can get satisfaction, but you can't.

Mommy, Section 1 (Meet the Family)

Mommy gloats about her ability to get "satisfaction" as a means of putting down Daddy, who thinks achieving satisfaction is impossible. Mommy preys on Daddy's inferiority complex to establish herself as the alpha in their relationship.


I suppose I deserve being talked to that way. I've gotten so old.

Grandma, Section 1 (Meet the Family)

The characters in The American Dream assign very little value to old age. Even Grandma, as an elderly woman, initially feels she isn't worth much anymore. Albee is showing how society has drifted away from knowledge, experience, and hard work to focus instead on the modern fashion of materialism and instant gratification.


I have a right to live off of you because I married you.

Mommy, Section 1 (Meet the Family)

Mommy thinks it's perfectly fine for her to live off Daddy's wealth. This quote speaks to the sense of entitlement and overinflated ego Albee takes umbrage with in society in general.


My, what an unattractive apartment you have!

Mrs. Barker, Section 2 (Mrs. Barker Arrives)

Mommy and Mrs. Barker's conversation is not with each other, but rather at each other. They are going through the motions and adopting the tone of a polite conversation, but they're actually saying nasty things to each other, using words as weapons.


Oh, Mrs. Barker, you must forgive Grandma. She's rural.

Mommy, Section 2 (Mrs. Barker Arrives)

Mommy uses the world rural as an insult, meaning Grandma is backward and out of touch compared to those who grew up in the city. This also alludes to Mommy's desire to separate herself from own past. She wants people to think she's always been wealthy and glamorous.


You're your daughter's mother, all right!

Mrs. Barker, Section 3 (Family Secrets Revealed)

Grandma has just told Mrs. Barker to "implore [her] some more," which makes Mrs. Barker feel as if Grandma is trying to take away her power just like Mommy does.


But old people don't go anywhere; they're either taken places, or put places.

Mrs. Barker, Section 3 (Family Secrets Revealed)

Mrs. Barker can't believe Grandma is leaving the apartment of her own accord. To her and the rest of the middle-aged generation, old people are something that needs to be dealt with, like rotting leftovers. It is unfathomable to her that Grandma is capable of making her own decisions and taking care of herself.


You are the American Dream.

Grandma, Section 3 (Family Secrets Revealed)

Grandma believes the Young Man is the embodiment of the modern interpretation of the American dream: attractive on the outside but devoid of personality and emotion on the inside. She recognizes he is what people her daughter's age want out of life: something beautiful, sexy, uncomplicated, and easy.

The Young Man, like most people, can't believe Grandma's absurd story about winning the baking contest with a day-old, store-bought cake. That is, he can't believe it until she reveals the $25,000 prize. He is willing to believe anything involving that kind of money.


Are you old enough to understand?

Young Man, Section 3 (Family Secrets Revealed)

Grandma is treated like a child throughout much of The American Dream, and the Young Man's question mirrors this. He is also asking whether she's old enough because he believes only the truly old can perceive truth. In this case it is good to be old. Grandma's age is what allows the Young Man to confide in her.


She was responsible for all the trouble in the first place.

Mommy, Section 4 (Finale)

Mommy blames all the family's problems on everyone but herself. In this case she blames Mrs. Barker for the dissatisfaction she and Daddy felt about the bumble.


Let's leave things as they are right now ... while everybody's happy.

Grandma, Section 4 (Finale)

Grandma speaks directly to the audience as she explains why the play has to end here instead of following the family into the future. This suggests that what the family thinks they want (the empty yet handsome Young Man) will not be enough to make them happy. If the play continued this lack of satisfaction would be visible.

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