Symbolic Self-Awareness of The Sandbox's Characters
Through his one-act play The Sandbox, Edward Albee has extended the allegory; his characters not only exist as symbols, but are more than vaguely aware of themselves as such. As caricatures rather than characters, they maintain a consciousness of their presence on stage as well as the stereotypical rules and emotions they are meant to display. Specifically through Mommy
and Daddy's vacuous and immediate shifts to "appropriate" attitudes, Edward Albee
issues his value statement. In effect, Shakespeare's assessment that "All the world's a stage,/And all men and women merely players" has been reanalyzed and extended by Albee, culminating in a work which declares the conventional conception of death as affected and contrived.
in its straightforwardness is the opening note on Mommy and Daddy and the "pre-senility and vacuity of their characters." Daddy's ensuing questions as to what is to be done, and Mommy's resulting composed answers set in motion the implication of an end-of-life ritual whose spiritual meaning has long since passed away. At one point, Daddy asks Mommy if they should conduct a conversation. Mommy responds, "Well, you can talk, if you want to...if you can think of anything to say...if you can think of anything new." Daddy's rejoinder in the negative establishes early on that his and Mommy's existences, and therefore actions, are hackneyed, artificial, mundane, and devoid of any true, personal meaning.
By the air of preparation which pervades the play, and by Grandma's death in the end, a connection is made, and The Sand Box is duly noted as Albee's address on custom surrounding the coming of life's passing. The creation of an W W W W W W in which the actors are aware of their presence of stage breaks ground for Albee's take on society's engagement in role-playing. Requesting appropriate background music, and making remarks on lighting, Albee's characters cannot escape discredit regarding the genuine. Similarly, Albee greets the close advance of death with the suitable stereotypes of sudden darkness, violin playing, "a violent off-stage rumble," and Mommy's brief tears.
Inevitably, the sincerity of Mommy and Daddy has been cast in doubt and all subsequent words and actions bear resemblance to conventions. In a remarkable shift of attitude, Mommy declares to Daddy: "Our long night is over. We must put away our mourning..." They do so by gazing at an inanimate Grandma and casually observing how "It's hard to be sad... she looks... so happy." Mommy's hesitation, and Albee's exclusion of a stage note recommending a serenely content-in-death Grandma, indicate the affected nature of Mommy's statement, and inherently, that of The Sand Box, as a whole.