Thematic Analysis on the Book American Buffalo by David Mamet
A buffalo accepts minimum from the society and gives the maximum-its food is grass (unless you feed something special) and the finished product that you get is milk! The junk store shown when American Buffalo opens, doesn’t inspire much. Normally, when the curtains are raised, the opening scene/set is supposed to be the best, highly impressive, to create a lasting impression with the audience. The secondhand “antique” store run by Don Dubrow nevertheless, kindles curiosity. The stage is filled with lots of junk. It is ‘easy’ to create neat and clean or fascinating sets.
A jumble set needs so much imagination to do. For example, a big overflowing dustbin prominently kept at the stage evokes as much curiosity as the big flower-vase full of colorful flowers.
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It evokes immediate enthusiasm in the minds of the spectators, “Why it is there on the stage at this initial stage of the drama? ” The opening dialogues go to the credit of Don who is delivering a business discourse to Bob, inviting his attention to the promised deals and the necessity to stick on to it. Bob was busy with not so healthy and socially acceptable ideas to get rich quick.
Bob apologizes, but Don speaks with a frustrated note at his friend’s temporary betrayal. Don retorts, “Don’t tell me you’re sorry, I’m not mad at you. ” This observation speaks about the sincerity of Don to bring his friend to the right track, by involving him in the respectable business of junk dealings! Filling the stage with the junk in such voluminous and vast quantity is not the easiest of the things to do. Clive Barnes (writing for the New York Times) called the Broadway set “astonishing” and described it as “an agglomeration of trash that must have taken a team of assistants months to acquire.
” (American…) Out of that confusing and unclassified dump, David Mamet tries to find the essential needs for a dignified life. The junk yard is the not the final destination for those articles. They rather wait for a new beginning—yet another lease of respectful life! The theme as conceived by Mamet, has some hidden agenda as for the welfare of the society. He has strange ways of propounding how to achieve his objectives! American Buffalo received intense critical attention, for it set the critics thinking and disturbed their psyche.
What they saw on the stage was not an ordinary effort as depicted by an ordinary story. The emotional highs and lows of the characters were realistic as per conditions obtaining in a big chunk of the American Society. David Mamet used the lowest of the language, the meanest of the vocabulary, to say his truth. He was bold in his approach, but no so beautiful and refined. But where is refine ness in the real-life situations that he was explaining? But the nods and appreciation that he secured for the plot and for his characters must be from those who have experienced such situations, either with or without success.
David Manmet doesn’t value victory or defeat much. He sees the truth in the permanent efforts. The untiring ones! His thematic approach to the language and expressions he used in the play is with a definite purpose. He could have written the dialogues in ‘King’s English’, but he preferred the idiosyncrasies and the latent humor of everyday speech of an average individual. Such characters responded and reacted to the routine situations in an ordinary but emphatic way. They expressed their opinions in a crude manner, by ‘keeping the essential dignity’ of their position in the society.
Every individual lives his life along with certain ambiguities, which he carries as his luggage, when he is unable to solve them. He however has a hope that one day he will be able to solve them, and will achieve a problem-free state. Reading a play is one thing, and looking at the performance, when many characters ‘read’ the play in accordance with their acting abilities, is another matter. The script, when you read may confuse you, may keep you less-inspired, you may feel that you are making desperate efforts to go through confusing paragraphs and sentences.
But when the characters do their sincere job of pronouncing them on the stage, David Mamet proves to us that he is right. He has judged their spirits and caught their moods right, with those appropriate utterances, what if they are half-thoughts and obscenities. He has showed and depicted the reality of obscenity, because you find it very much prevalent in the vocabulary of the society about which he is writing. So, what harm is there in calling the spade a spade? The incident shown about three crook’s planning to steal a coin collection in the name of “good business” is right according to their level of thinking.
(It is better than stabbing an individual to rob his wealth or cheat a bank with fraudulent ideas) That is the stage of their progression in life. They are able to offer justification for their actions as per their own perfected reasoning. Whether the society accepts it or not is another matter. But they have no confusion about their objective. The characters of David Mamet have a particular level of existence. You can’t pass judgment on them by sitting on the ivory tower. To know them, you need to reach their level. Understand their real-life situations and put you in their shoes!
They do, what they do, not out of pleasure; but out of sheer necessity of existing in this world. Therefore, the seemingly inarticulate utterances yield a rhythm found in few other playwrights’ work. “Part of the fascination of the play,” wrote Women’s Wear Daily’s Howard Kissel, lies in “noting how the same banal language takes on different colors as we perceive the changing relationships” between the characters. (American…) To maintain friendship and business together requires lots of understanding. The beginning seems to be good, but what really matters is maintenance of the relation ship.
Business world is not always the domain of ethics. The fundamental principle and the goal in business are profits, success and self-interest. The play makes good beginning as for the combination of business and friendship but by the end of the play, the edifice of friendship collapses, and self-interest hoists the flag of victory. The theme of any story always tells something about the author, even when the author makes conscious efforts to avoid it. Recollections of author’s past appear in some form or the other.
May be some dialogues, situations, trials and tribulations, duty and beauty of the characters—somewhere between the interactions of the character it surfaces in a subtle form. David Mamet had a difficult childhood. He was born in Chicago, and was raised in a Jewish neighborhood. His father being a labor attorney, discussion about labor problems must have been commonplace. Mamet has learnt and depicted the anger, frustration and slang of American youth and men very well and this can be learnt and captured in the printed page only through direct experience and exposure to situations.
David Mamet introduces a unique theme in American Buffalo-the judicious use of sabotage. They say, all is fair in war and love. Mamet adds one more category to this-business wisdom (when reduced to its basest form. ) He was appreciated for his ability to find equation with the common man through this play. Their slang became his weapon of success. His characters rarely speak full sentences, but what they utter has the telling effect. You nod in approval, as it appeals to you emotions. The three main characters, the low life thugs, succeed in taking potshots at the American way of life and its business ethics.
The bricks of foundation of America are dispossession of the land from the former owners and genocide of the local Indian populace. “The drama and conflict among the characters is intense in a very disturbing way. This is a play that makes you very uncomfortable about the way that people relate to each other and challenges your hopes that values like friendship and honor are greater than the drive to get a bit ahead no matter who you step on in the process. ” (Theatre…) Conclusion: American Buffalo is a common man’s drama, in common language, dominated by
common characters, but written by an uncommon author. ========== References Cited: Article: Theatre Card: American Buffalo By David Mamet . … www2. netdoor. com/~campbab/theatre/buffalo. html – 10k – Retrieved on October 10, 2007. Article: American Buffalo Summary and Study Guide – David Mamet. … www. enotes. com/american-buffalo – 15k –Retrieved on October 10, 2007. Mamet, David: American Buffalo (Paperback) Publisher: Grove Press; Subsequent edition (January 11, 1994) ISBN-10: 0802150578 ISBN-13: 978-0802150578