Chapter One Introduction
1.1 The Focus of the Study
As an American avant-garde playwright,Edward Albee(1928-2016)has contributed greatlyto the traditional and rigid theatrical stage of his time,and his name is often associated withEugene O’Neill,Tennessee Williams,and Arthur Miller.Compared with them,Albee’s works areconsidered as absurd and daring for his unprecedented and astonishing way of writing.Thoughbeing labeled as a member of“Theatre of the Absurd”,realistic concerns are often expressed in hisplays.He always remained sensitive to the issues of his time and deeply depicted the state ofhuman existence.Born in Virginia in 1928,he was discarded by his birth mother and adopted by The Albees just 18 days after he was born.Although the family was rich and owned more than 400theaters,the relationship between the adoptive parents was terrible,which failed providing afavourable growth environment for Albee.Fortunately,the well-off family provided him asplendid education and the opportunity to get in touch with theatrical celebrities and the art ofdrama at an early age.At the age of twenty-one,unable to find a sense of belonging in his newfamily,Albee had a quarrel with his stepmother and finally ran away from home.After that,hetried various kinds of jobs and witnessed all walks of life on the margins of society.He keptwriting and incorporated his personal experiences into his works.His early career wascharacterized by a long apprenticeship of trial-and-error experimentation,followed by an almostsudden rise to accomplishment and notoriety(Bottoms,2005:2).Edward began to realize hisspecial sexual orientation in his youth period and he had three homosexual partners in his wholelife,a musician,a playwright and a sculptor.Each of them had inspired and offered great help tohim in life and spirit.Long regarded as the representative writer of the absurd,which he dismissedthe label himself,Albee considered his plays are more realistic than absurd,which confronts thereal situation of human beings.His other best known works include The Zoo Story(1958),Sandbox(1960),The American Dream(1961),Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?(1962),A DelicateBalance(1967),At Home at the Zoo(2009)and so on.Just as he assumed,his works depict thereal social status and issues which mainly involve the plight of human nature,the broken family,man and nature,man and animal,ethics and morality.
1.2 Literature Review
Throughout Edward Albee’s nearly 50 years’writing career,there are a total of 28 playswhich have been published.From the 1950s to 1970s,his most prolific period,he almostpublished one or two works every year and continued to win important theatrical awards.In 1967,his work A Delicate Balance won the Pulitzer Prize for the first time,which provoked an upsurgein the study of his drama in western academic circles.At the end of the 1970s,he created a seriesof experimental dramas which achieved great success by being adapted to films and brought to thescreen,then he won the Pulitzer Prize again.In his later years,he continued writing,but most ofhis plays were attacked by many critics and the performances ended in failure.It was not until thesuccess of Three Tall Women in 1993 that he regained a favorable reception.In 2002,The Goat,orWho is Silvia?once again propelled him to the top of his career,but it also prompted criticismboth in and out of the country.
Chapter Two Manifestations of Ethical Transgression in The Goat
2.1 Transgression in Identity Ethics
Being a model of the American Dream,Martin is at the age of fifty and seems to have anenviable family as well as a successful career.As the youngest person ever to win thearchitecture’s version of Nobel,he is appointed to design and build the World City,a$200 billiondream city of the future.In his oldest friend Ross’s eyes,Martin is“some people matter inextraordinary ways”(Albee,2005:26).Surrounded by applause and reputation,Martin receivesattention from the public and people around feel proud of him.His wife also speaks highly of himand regards him“a decent,liberal,right-thinking,talented,famous,gentle man”(ibid 54).
However,there is something goes wrong with him and no one knows that he is caught in aspiritual predicament.In the beginning of the play,Martin shows obvious absence of mind in the interview with Ross and acts like he does not know where he is and what he is doing.Besides,their conversations are accompanied by a series of symptoms suggesting Martin’s abnormality,such as temporary forgetfulness,allophasis and loss of his senses.For example,he could notremember where he had put the new head for the razor;he could not recall Ross’s son’s name;Hecan not remember why there are two cards in his jacket and he can not even hear the rushingsound(ibid 8-14)!Martin feels disoriented and worries that he may have Alzheimer’s disease orother types of dementia.It can be observed clearly that Martin is suffering from certainincoherence,his words almost tumbles over one another.In addition,he is scatterbrained,nomatter whom he is talking to,he’s unable to understand,concentrate and cooperate.
2.2 Transgression in Family Ethics
In human history,it is a fact that family is one of the most important components and the anintegral part of the society,which is mainly formed by blood and marriage.As an oldest social organization form and a kind of ethical relationship,family is the first,direct and natural ethicalentity,whose special characteristic lies in its close interpersonal relationship with family members.(Cao Li,2016:8).Family members are irreplaceable in family life and they consciously sharegroup values and norms.The norms that guide and constrain the behaviors of family members arenot composed of formal explicit rules like formal organizations,but of habits,ethics and groupconsciousness.Favourable family ethics not only maintains the steadiness of the whole society,but also contributes to family happiness and prosperity.According to Nie Zhengzhao,People’sidentity does not simply represent the special identity existence but certain obligations and duties(Nie Zhengzhao,2014:263).As a husband as well as a father in the civilized society,It’s Martin’sduty to defend family ethical values and moral obligations instead of breaking them.In the play,Martin appears to have a harmonious relationship with his wife Stevie,but the truth is that hisextramarital affair with the goat has totally transgressed the moral rules between both sides of themarriage and finally brought the breakdown of the whole family.In addition,the father-sonrelationship in this play is also abnormal.Thus,family ethical transgressions,especially in themarital and parenting relationship are the main focus of this part.
Chapter Three Causes of Ethical Transgression in The Goat...........................24
3.1 The Alienation of Human Nature.....................................24
3.2 The Imbalance of Family Relationship..............................27
Chapter Four Implications of Ethical Transgression in The Goat.............................35
4.1 A Revelation of American Family............................................35
4.2 A Reflection on Human-Animal Relationship..............................39
Chapter Five Conclusion........................47
Chapter Four Implications of Ethical Transgression in The Goat
4.1 A Revelation of American Family
Puritan morality,as one of the core values in sustaining the traditional American family,advocates values such as diligence,democracy,moderation,freedom and equality,and it alsopromotes such core qualities as the main content of family moral education.Under the long-terminfluence of the puritan morality and ethical order,from the early colonists until the 20th century,Americans attached great importance to family life and treated their family members with mutualrespect,love and equality.In marital relationship,unlike the sexual liberation and freedomadvocated by the American society after the middle of the 20th century,the early Americans werevery cautious and restrained about the norms of behavior before and after marriage.Most of themheld a negative attitude toward marital infidelity and premarital sex,because once it is discovered,both sides involving may have to bear strict moral condemnation and public pressure from allaspects.However,after the World War II,under an influx of various culture ideological trends,especially the pessimistic existentialism,extreme consumerism,controversial feminism andecologism,the American society has undergone a transformation in many aspects,which has evenchallenged and subverted the traditional American family values to some extent.Among them,theschool of existentialism,which advocates the creed of“absurdity of the world and pain of life”,was particularly popular in the Western world.Besides,with the rapid economic growth,thedevelopment of society is largely promoted and people are immersed in the colorful material lifeand gradually fall into spiritual frustration or confusion,which exerts a huge impact on theestablished family values and ethics.
Chapter Five Conclusion
The Goat,or Who is Sylvia?,involving the love affair between human and animal,hasviolated the ethical values that people could bear and aroused much disputed criticism rangingfrom disgust to compliment in both literary and theatre world.However,according to Albee,thebestiality is not the only subject.The play is an overall microcosm that includes his realisticconcerns with the spiritual predicaments of modern people,the dysfunctional traditional Americanfamilies,as well as the relationship between man and nature.Based on close reading of the play,this thesis examines the protagonists’transgressive behaviors and reasons behind themrespectively in terms of ethical identity,family ethics and animal ethics by referring to ethicaltransgression and its relevant theory,aiming to arouse people’s attention to such a matter anddeepen the understanding of this controversial but thought-provoking work.
In face of making ethical identity choices,the main protagonist,Martin,loses his rationaljudgment as a human being and chooses to commit sexual intercourse with an animal,whichsuggests a total transgression from his own ethical identity.Besides,by presenting the conflictsbetween his family,the malformation of the marital relationship,the moral degradation of familymembers and the ethical crisis of the American family in the 20th century are largely revealed.Moreover,driven by their own desires and animal instincts,Martins’brutal treatment and hiswife’s slaughter of the animal expose a human-centered animal ethics.All these phenomena aredefinitely against the values and principals in identity ethics,family ethics and animal ethics.