Buried Child Essay, Research Paper
The main idea of Sam Shepard’s, “Buried Child” is dis-function. Set in typical Shepard fashion, he creates what can be described as a typical, run of the mill American family. However, it is not long intothe playr that the reader realizes that not only is this not the case, but this family may in fact be the most dis-functional in all of America.
It is immediately made clear to the reader that something is not quite right. Dodge, the grandfather of the extended family, is seemingly on his death bed and his wife, Halie, doesn’t appear to be overly sympathetic, as her concern towards him seems more obligatory than anything else. She then goes out to have “lunch” with the preacher, and it is later revealed that they are in fact having an affair. This is not the kind of behavior one would expect from a life partner.
We next meet Tilden. He is the oldest son of Halie and Dodge. He comes into the house with an armful of corn, and is immediately questioned about it. Dodge tells him that there is no corn on their property. Tilden then contradicts that statement and says that there in fact is corn, and he just picked it from their property. Tilden appears to be the sane one out of the three characters we had met. However, we then find out that he had been in trouble in New Mexico, and was in fact kicked out of the state. At that point, we realize that something is definitely not right with this family.
Next, we meet Bradley, the one-legged son of Halie and Dodge. He cut it off in a freak chain sawing accident. Shortly after, Vince shows up from New York with his girlfriend, Shelley. He is the grandson of Halie and Dodge. He stopped by to see them on his way to visit his father. The weird thing is that nobody recognizes Vince. This is a great testament to how messed uo this family is. Nobody ever makes sense. Everybody is constantly being contradicted, and then the grandson, who is the only level-headed one of the bunch, is not even recognized. I believe that this was a tool used purposefully be Shepard. By the time Vince shows up, we are all looking for someone to start making some sense. We immediately choose to belive Vince, and don’t even consider that they’re right, and he’s making up the fact that he’s the grandson. To add to all of this, Bradley, the one-legged son, insists that Shelley allow him to shove his fingers down her oral cavity. Furthermore, she is bombarded with extremely personal information that not even other family members know. She learns that Dodge drowned a baby and buried it in the backyard, which we later learn is quite possibly the offspring of Tilden and Halie. Dodge is upset at Halie for coming back drunk with the preacher, and for making rude comments to Shelley. So he spills his guts about how she had been involved with another man and had a child with him. On top of everything else, this family may very well be incestuous as well.
Vince comes back drunk, and he is then immediately recognized. He was going to run away, but something made him come back. Probably because he didn’t want to leave Shelley alone with his family. He gets her out of there, and all hell breaks loose as he creates havoc. He smashes beer bottles along the side of the porch. He throws Bradley’s fake leg offstage and Bradley crawls away trying to retrieve it. This leaves only Dodge and Vince alone, sitting on the couch. Dodge gives the house over to Vince. This is symbolic of putting the family in the hands of the only man capable of taking care of themselves.
Many proposterous events occur in this play, as I have outlined. The more you learn about this family, the more dis-functional they appear. Dodge, an obviously beaten and tired man, did have some rationale. We find out at the end, that he was unwilling to die without passing the torch, so to speak. He appeared to be beyond his time, and I figured that there had to be a reason for him to wake up in the morning. He was looking for a suitable man to pass the torch on to, and he finally found it in Vince. Thus, ending the chapter of a family that can be summed up in one word: dysfunctional.