The character of Grandma as a marginalized American Dream
The character of Grandma in Edward Albee's The American Dream is for critics and audiences the most appealing, the most refreshing, and the wisest figure in the play. She "represents the solid pioneer stock out of which the American dream might have come had it not been corrupted instead"
(Wellworth 13) As Nicholas Canaday, Jr., states "She sees more clearly than anyone else in the play. . . . The fact is that she is far ahead of all the other characters in the play."(16) Grandma alone flourishes among the dehumanized and deluded marionettes that are Mommy, Daddy, Mrs. Barker, and the Young Man with vital, bitter humor and rational insight, without doubt contradicting her description of herself as only a "muddleheaded old woman." (Albee 70)
The ironic commentator of the play, Grandma stands in for the figure of the absurd dramaturge, ultimately exiting the frame of the action to become its director. This surprising exit and her immediate crossing between the space of the action and the space of the theater can be anticipated because of her marginal position in the household, what Albee offers as an allegory for the "American Scene".
Grandma ultimately represents the original American Dream, a dream, which is trying to be replaced by a newer, materialistic, corrupted, and finally distorted version of the American Dream, embodied by the character of the Young man. Mommy and Daddy are clearly not contempt with the ideal of the morality driven American Dream that they were raised in; they enjoyed playing with the idea of wealth, corruption, physical appearance, and emasculation that tempted them so dearly. Therefore the couple lashed out at Grandma with cruelty and violence. She defended herself, the only way she knew, using her age as an advantage, claiming that she was deaf, senile, and crude, thus protecting herself by stating ironically biting sayings that are as tedious and senile as they are insightful: