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The play Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris is a spin-off of the famous play by Lorraine Hansherry, A Raisin in the Sun, This performance tells two parallel tales about two couples whose recent move provokes some tense conversations on the topic of racism. Two Women in two different time periods confront their hidden racial biases in order to decide whether monetary or historical value is more important, while facing opposition from both racist extremes, until ultimately they are left questioning their progressiveness.
The central characters of Clybourne Park are Bev, from Act I, and Lindsey, from Act II. Focusing on Act I, Bev was the character who changed the most throughout the play. At first she was ready to move out of her house, and move on emotionally from the tragedy of her son’s death. After arguing with Karl Linder, Bev seems hesitant to move. In the last few lines on Act I, Bev discusses the new house with her husband Russ: RUSS: Five-oh—seven, right back at your doorstep.
BEV: And what’ll I do in between? (RUSS is caught of -guard.) RUSS: I, I, uhhh Well, gee, I guess, whatever you Any number of BEV: Things… RUSS: To keep ya occupied BEV: I suppose you’re right, (He turns on the radio, Music, He looks back at BEV, who stares into space.) Opposed to the beginning of Act I, Bev now seems to be afraid that things will not change once her and her husband move into a new home.
This move was suppose to be a way to separate themselves physically from the tragedy of their son‘s suicide, which lingered in the home. This is why, as we find out in Act II, Bev and Russ buried their son’s trunk in the backyard opposed to taking it with them when they moved. Overall, the main oppositional character, Karl Linder, stirred up feelings of uncertainty in Bev as to her ability to move forward both socially and emotionally. In Act II, Lindsey’s main oppositional character is Lena.
Lindsey considers herself a non-racist, progressive thinker Her intentions on moving into Clybourne Park, in order to build a home for her and her family, is entirely innocent in her mind. Lena sees this differently Towards the middle of Act II, tensions begin to rise as Lena recounts the historical importance of the house when Lindsey explains their interest in the property: LINDSEY (to LENA) Look, I for one ,1 am really grateful for what you said, but this is why we sometimes feel defensive, you know? Because we love this neighborhoodw, We completely do… And I totally admit, I’m the one who was resistant, especially with the schools and everything, but once I stopped seeing the neighborhood the way it used to be, and could see what it is now, and its potential? (60) Lindsey, like Bev, believes she is being fair and open minded, when in reality she is disregarding the significance of this house within its community. Although Lindsey does not directly say anything racist, the subtext of her explanation is laced with prejudice. She uses the term ”schools” which is a popular dog whistle for race, Additionally, Lindsey mentions “the potential of the neighborhood“ and how it use to be, opposed to how it is now The subtext is that Lindsey believes the community was better when it’s population was white, and now it is worse because it is predominantly black. Lena challenges Lindsey because she points out Lindsey’s racist subtext. Additionally, while Lindsey is focused on the monetary value of the property.
Lena is focused on the historical prominence of the home, For example, after Lena explains the emotional connection she shares with the house, the group gets side tracked, and Lena apologizes for proking the tangent: LENA I‘m sorry for taking time. LINDSEY No. What you said was great LENA And I wasn’t trying to romanticize, LINDSEY. You didn’t LENA Nothing romantic about being poor. LINDSEY But, it was your neighborhood. Unfonunately, it seems that Lindsey never understands that what she’s saying is prejudiced, because even after all of Lena’s explanation of the value of the home, Lindsey still wants to continue with her plan to demolish it and rebuild More ironically, Lindsey openly disagrees with Steve’s blatantly racist remarksi She even went as far as to threaten divorce, yet she is the one still pushing to build against the wishes of Lena and Kevin. Lindsey exclaims, “Well, Steven, you’re free to live wherever you want, but the baby and I will be here if you ever feel like visiting”. Overall, Lena challenges the facade of Lindsey’s open mindedness which creates the greatest obstacle for Lindsey The subject of Clybourne Park is space. The characters in this performance fight over who can inhabit and what can be done, with respect to the surrounding area, in an individual’s spacer. Most conflicts regarding space in this play revert back to racist beliefs and white supremacy. The central conflict in Act I is the conflict between Bev, Russ, and Karlr Karl wanted Bev and Russ to take action and stop the sale of their house as a result of the buying family being black. Karl explained, “I think that, inasmuch as Ted deceived you about the buyers, that the bank could still halt the sale and it would be a simple“ matter of a signaturem”. In Act II, the two couples are arguing about what the new homeowners can do with their space To Lena and Kevin it is important to respect the surrounding community’s historical ties to the home, and to maintain the area as it is opposed to trying to “better it” by replacing the black community with a white one. The dramatic question connecting the two acts of Clybourne Park is: Does race determine what space an individual can occupy? One parallel drawn between the two acts is in a quote by Karl in Act I, “But you can’t live in a principle, can you? Gotta live in a house”.
This is later repeated by Kevin in Act 11, “But you can’t live in a principle”. This connection supports the conclusion that, yes, race in this play has a large effect on where an individual can exist, In both cases, the women are attempting to not be racially biased because in principle race should not play a factor in the situations at hand. Karl and Kevin respond by explaining that a non racist world is not reality, and therefore you cannot exist in the principle of such a belief, The theme of Clybourne Park is that in American society race influences the space an individual is allowed to encompass, Bev and Russ‘s house is originally located in a solely white neighborhood, which granted them and their neighbors the uniform space they desired. Unfonunately, when Russ and Bev’s son Kenneth was dishonorably discharged for war crimes against innocent civilians, he was shunned by the community, He could no longer get a job, or leave his house without judgement. In the end, Kenneth reduced the amount of space he occupied to a single trunk when he took his own life Fifty years later, the Younger’s had moved in and back out of the house, but following them was a community ofAfrican American families This changed the dynamics of the space seen in Act It In Act 11, instead of simply moving into the community of predominately African American families, which would have been a more minute issue, Lindsey and Steve want to tear down a significant home and build an obnoxiously large house in it’s place. Lena‘s initial complaint about Lindsey and Steve’s building plan stated, “These people are planning to build a house that’s a full fifteen feet taller than all the adjacent structures” (54) An excessively large home owned by a white family surrounded by significantly smaller homes owned by black bodied families symbolizes the racial influence on allotted space. Amain element of spectacle in Clybaurne Park is Kenneth‘s trunk This trunk symbolizes his death and the emotional weight carried by Bev and Russ. In the beginning, when Bev urges Russ to move the trunk, he puts this task off, explaining, “son a two-person job.”(11) Yet, when Bev asks Francine to help Russ, he denies her, and says he will do it later, Later, Albert and Francine slide the trunk a bit too roughly down the stairs Russ reacts with intense anger and storms out of the room This showcases Russ’s inability to cope with the death of his son and his resistance to move on from the eventl Aquestion I have on Clybourne Park would be: Why was Kenneth’s suicide included in the plot if the focus was mainly on racial issues?
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