Illusionism and Failed Dreams: An Examination of the ‘Family Plays’ of Sam Shepard


  • Dr. Rekha Mathews Associate Professor The Department of English Bishop Kurialacherry College for Women Amalagiri, Kottayam, Kerala, India


Illusion, Reality, Beat Generation, American Dream


A recurrent theme in American drama, or modern drama for that matter is the phenomenon of illusion versus reality. This can be traced as far back as the classical drama of Greece, and it continues through the ages in different forms of theatrical expression including the modern realist drama and the epic theatre of Brecht and the theatre of the Absurd. In the dramatic scene of the United States, O’Neill, Miller and Williams explored this theme.In the ‘Beat Generation’ writers, Sam Shepard was the most noteworthy exponent of the theatre of the Off Broadway. In the case of Miller, Williams and Albee the settings of the plots are mostly urban America. Sam Shepard takes us to the contemporary rural Midwest, which embodies the old world America. Personally attached to this world where he grew up, Shepard uses this setting to explore the decline of the old American family world and the alienation and existential angst experienced by the new generation of the post war decades. Shepard who began as a pop musician and OOB theatre activist in New York, wrote a few plays that are often described as his ‘family plays’. The symbolic and metaphoric suggestiveness of his plays have invited the term ‘apocalyptic’ to describe them. He leaves sufficient room for ambiguity as to what his plays mean. They are generally about the failure of the American Dream .His characters are men and women haunted by failure and disillusionment.


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How to Cite

Dr. Rekha Mathews. (2021). Illusionism and Failed Dreams: An Examination of the ‘Family Plays’ of Sam Shepard. Researchers World - International Refereed Social Sciences Journal, 9(1), 165–170. Retrieved from