Essay on Symbolism in Sam Shepard's The Buried Child

Essay on Symbolism in Sam Shepard's The Buried Child

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Symbolism in Sam Shepard's The Buried Child

In Sam Shepard’s The Buried Child there are numerous twists and turns that have the reader spinning and wanting more. Shepard develops a play that has a plethora of illusions, not only towards such works as Oedipus Rex, where he includes the theme of incest. He has also incorporated symbolic emasculation and Native American symbols of renewal with the abundance of vegetables in the backyard.
At first glance, Buried Child seems as a typical Middle American family. Dodges one-track alcoholic mind, Halie’s pestering personality and Tilden’s distant relationship with his father all seems relatively typical of an elderly Middle America family. However, this is far from being the truth.
The play begins with Dodge (in his seventies) sounding as if he is close to death. He has a hacking cough, which gives the impression that he is extremely ill. Shepherd is alluding to the fact that Dodge is not merely sick physically, but also mentally. The cough is a way to show this sickness in a way where people can see the progression of his illness throughout the play.
The introduction of Tilden, Dodge’s son, is quite bizarre; he enters the house with an armful of corn and drops it at his father’s feet. The power of this message will be noticed farther into the play. Shephard is signifying life and death wrapped in one, When Tilden brought the corn in from the back yard his father looked at him and told him to give the corn back, thinking he had stolen it. Dodge said, "I haven't planted corn back there since 1935, so take that damn corn back form where ever you got it". Yet, Tilden maintains that the entire back yard is filled with tall stalks of corn, carrots and potatoes. It is almost...

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...ho recognizes him and she says, “Vince it is you, I always said you were my guardian angel looking down upon me.” It is a sign that Vince is going to be the one who is now going to take care of them, he is the one that is going to be able to start the family over again in a positive direction.
The ending of this play has closes on a positive note. The rain finally stops the sun is shinning, Dodge's cough is gone and he is able to rest eternally in a state of relief. Halie finally feels as though she hasn't committed a sin that will send her to hell; Vince has come back to start a new life, Tilden finds himself and does whatever it is he had to do. Shepard created an ending which the world could appreciate its simplicity yet complications. A true master at work.


The Bedford Introduction to Drama third edition:by Lee A. Jacobus

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