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American Dream | Study Guide

Edward Albee

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American Dream | Symbols


Mommy's Hat

The play opens as Mommy tells Daddy about the hat she purchased the day before. The salespeople assured her the hat is beige, yet Mrs. Barker insists it is wheat-colored. Mommy becomes incredibly angry with the salespeople for selling her a wheat-colored hat, and then allows them to resell her the exact same hat, which they promise is beige. The hat itself never changes, but the way people view it does. Mommy craves status and acceptance, so she goes along with whatever people tell her, particularly if they are higher than she is on the social ladder. The absurd drama of the hat symbolizes Mommy's lack of confidence in her own opinion and her desire to fit in.

The Bumble

Everyone in The American Dream refers to the baby Mommy and Daddy adopted 20 years ago as the "bumble of joy," a malapropism for "bundle of joy." Mommy and Daddy wanted a perfect child, but they are instead left with a little boy who cries and does naughty things. Dissatisfied with their purchase, Mommy and Daddy cut off parts of the bumble's body until he dies. They become even more dissatisfied to realize they spent money on something that is dead. The bumble symbolizes Mommy and Daddy's expectations. They want everything in their lives to be perfect but aren't willing to change themselves. When situations don't live up to their expectations, they place the blame on everyone except themselves.

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