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American Dream | Study Guide

Edward Albee

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American Dream | Section 4 (Finale) | Summary



Mrs. Barker leads Mommy and Daddy back into the living room. Mommy becomes distressed once she realizes Grandma is gone. Mrs. Barker tells her the van man came to get Grandma, and Mommy says this can't be true because she and Daddy made up the van man. As Daddy consoles Mommy, Grandma comes to the front of the stage and speaks directly to the audience. "I want to watch this," she says.

Mrs. Barker ushers the Young Man into the living room. Mommy perks up once she realizes the Young Man is there to bring her and Daddy satisfaction after the disappointment of their first son. "Yes, sir! ... Now this is more like it," she says. They decide to celebrate with a drink, and the Young Man goes into the kitchen to get some wine. He returns with five glasses, and Mommy reprimands him for not knowing how to count as there are only four people in the room. They drink "to satisfaction" and Mommy starts to flirt with the Young Man.

Grandma speaks directly to the audience again, saying, "This is a comedy, and I don't think we'd better go any further ... Good night, dears." The curtain closes.


The distress Mommy feels upon discovering Grandma has gone is the only glimpse of real emotion her character displays during the play. At first it seems as if she's upset because Grandma took the boxes with her, but her worries about thievery become less important as she realizes her mother is never coming back. Her tears are genuine, but they make her vulnerable. Like Mrs. Barker in Section 3, Mommy no longer has control of the situation. Now she doesn't remember why Mrs. Barker has come to visit, but Daddy and Mrs. Barker do. Mommy doesn't stay down for long—she quickly catches on and reestablishes herself as the leader of the group. She praises the Young Man and insinuates that she will talk to him "later tonight," which suggests a sexual attraction. This emasculates Daddy once more, and takes away any power he had reclaimed during Mommy's tears. Mrs. Barker's power is stripped away as well when Mommy says Mrs. Barker was "responsible for all the trouble in the first place." By the end of the play Mommy is in complete control again.

But in fact Grandma has escaped Mommy's control. Her exit at the end of Section 3 allows her to engage with the audience as an omnipotent bystander in Section 4, which positions her as the finale's narrator. Grandma knows how things are going to turn out for Mommy and Daddy, which is why she suggests the play end when everyone is still happy and "everybody's got what he thinks he wants." The American Dream is classified as a comedy, but Grandma's parting words indicate Mommy and Daddy's story will actually end in something else. Though they are satisfied now, Grandma knows it will never be enough to make them truly happy.

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