Beijing California Essay

1089 WordsFeb 20, 20115 Pages
The Decay of the Traditional American Family In Beijing, California Paul Heller uses the transformation of the typical American family to convey the decay of traditional American cultural values such as family structure and roles of men and women, sex as taboo, and the purpose of marriage. The playwright uses the elimination of the father and subsequent vacant roles to suggest the decay of the typical American family home. The typical American family is analogous to the nuclear family, a household consisting of a mother, father, and their children. The father was the breadwinner whereas the mother was the homemaker. In the first episode the playwright introduces the father as a concerned middle-class American worried about future economic possibilities spawned by the recession. While the father complains about deindustrialization and exportation of American jobs, his wife Sandra cradles their newborn girl Samantha worrying about the educational opportunities afforded to her in the future. As the play progresses from episode I to episode II the playwright thrusts us into the future where the Chinese have occupied American. Interestingly, the father is completely absent, which begs the audience to question his whereabouts. If the father had died honorably protecting his family during the Chinese occupation, then his pictures would have been present in the house just like the American flag that was displayed on the wall in their home. Instead the absence and lack of reference to the father suggests that he deserted the family in a moment of chaos. In the father’s absence, Robert initially assumes the role of breadwinner by working as a Gardner for a Chinese diplomat family but is unable to support his family on a Gardner wage whereas his sister Samantha secures funds to not only make the rent, but to increase their standard of living. The fact that Samantha

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