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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

16. The Search For Identity

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Activities: Author Activities

David Mamet - Selected Archive Items

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[3062] Carl Mydans, House on Laconia Street in a Suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio (1935),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USF34-000658-D].
Suburban scene of houses, street, and sidewalk. This is an early example of the type of homogeneous suburban neighborhood that flourished immediately following World War II. The continuation of such development in the later twentieth century led to huge economic, social, and environmental problems resulting from uncontrolled "sprawl"--a term that captures the unreflective reproduction of language, people, and places. Sprawl has been criticized by David Mamet in his plays.

[8479] Anonymous, World War II Posters: What School Teachers and Pupils Should Do During an Air Raid (1942),
courtesy of the World War II Poster Collection, Northwestern University Library.
The standardization, homogenization, and regularization in everyday life that spread from the 1950s and 1960s through the present day-- from responding to air raid drills, to pledging patriotic support to the government, to embracing the materialism of suburban life--all shape playwright David Mamet's engagement with American society through his characters' fierce, yet sometimes comical, use of language.

[9072] U.S. Department of the Interior, Map of Chicago, 1970, from the National Atlas of the United States of America, U.S. Geological Survey (1970),
courtesy of the General Libraries, University of Texas at Austin.
Playwright David Mamet experienced Chicago's postwar economic development, growing up on the Jewish south side of the city. Moving back to Chicago after college, Mamet worked at a real estate agency, an experience that provided the basis for Glengarry Glen Ross. His plays, capturing the potential violence of language and the travails of miscommunication, explore society's disregard for its most enduring inequities. "What I write about," says Mamet, "is what I think is missing from our society. And that's communication on a basic level."

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