20th Century American Family Drama: An Exploration of Image of Loss

Document Type: Original Article




The purpose of this study is to explore the image of loss in modern American drama in the theme of family. The image of loss prevails the post-war era of American drama in three levels of psychological, physical, and moral space. This image is clearly observable in two of the prominent works of the era, Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Moreover, this image of loss is closely connected with the notion of time. The familial breakdown appears as a sustaining motif that plays a central role in the psychologically shattered personality of the major characters, as a result of the profound changes in the American post-war society and family. World War II was a milestone in the society as a whole, and in the family as a smaller society, and correspondingly among the people as entities which the image of loss seemed inseparable from. American post-War drama fully represents the tough conditions of that era particularly in the themes of familial breakdown and the image of loss.


Abbotson, S. C. W. Masterpieces of 20th – Century American Drama. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2005.

Albee, E. The American Dream and the Zoo Story. New York: Plume, 1997.

Beaurline, L. A. The Glass Menagerie: From Story to Play. Modern Drama, 8, 1965: pp. 142-49.

Bigsby, C. W. E. Celebration of a Certain Kind of Courage. Modern Critical Interpretations: Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, in H. Bloom (Eds.). New York: Chelsea House, 1988: pp. 89-99.

Bigsby, C. W. E. Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller: A Critical Study. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008: pp. 100-123.

Bloom, H. Introduction. Major Literary Characters: Willy Loman. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991: pp. 1-4.

Bloom, H. Modern Critical Interpretations: Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991.

Choudhuri, A. D. Death of a Salesman: A Salesman’s Illusion. In Major Literary Characters. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991: pp. 66-78.

Cohen, A. Two-Dimensional Man: An Essay on the Anthropology of Power and Symbolism in Complex Society. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974.

MacIver, R. M. The Web of Government. New York: Macmillan, 1947.

Meserve, W. J. An Outline History of American Drama. Rev. Ed. New York: Feedback Theatrebooks and Prospero Press, 1994.

Miller, A. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1949.

Miller, J. Y. The Three Halves of Tennessee Williams’s World.” Public Issues, Private Tensions. Ed. Matthew C. Roudané. New York: AMS Press, 1993: pp. 49-64.

Miller, T. L. Plays and Playwrights: Civil Was to 1896. In The Cambridge History of American Theatre, vol. 2, 1870-1945, by Don B. Wilmeth and Christopher Bigsby, 233-61. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Nelson, B. Arthur Miller: Portrait of a Playwright. New York: McKay, 1970.

Parker, R. B. The Circle Closed: A Psychological Reading of The Glass Menagerieand the Two-Character Play. Modern Drama, 28, 1985: pp. 517-34.

Roudané, M. The Cambridge Companion to Tennessee Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Van den Berghe, P. Man in Society. New York: Elsevier, 1975.

Williams, T. The Glass Menagerie. New York: New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1949.