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Funnyhouse of a Negro


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Adrienne Kennedy (b. 1931)

 

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A: Adrienne Kennedy Pf: 1962, New York Pb: 1969 G: Drama in 1 act S: New York apartment, indeterminate time C: 3 m, 5fA mumbling sleepwalker, her face hidden, carries a bald head across the stage. The curtain opens on Sarah's New York apartment. She is a pale-skinned African-American, concerned about her frizzy hair, which she is gradually losing. Her mother was pale-skinned, and spent hours combing her hair. She refused to allow Sarah's missionary father to ‘touch her in their wedding bed and called him black’. Sarah is the product of her father's rape of her mother, who dies, her hair falling out. In a series of dream-like sequences, Sarah identifies with different selves: Queen Victoria (symbol of Western dominance!), the Duchess of Hapsburg (perhaps the obsolescence of her tribe, a once powerful family), a hunchbacked Jesus Christ (suffering allied with the imposition of a foreign culture on African peoples), and Patrice Lumumba (African freedom fighter who had been killed a year previously allegedly with the connivance of the United Nations General Secretary). Eventually, her selves murder her father, but ‘he keeps coming back forever’. She then hangs herself, and Funnyman Raymond and a Funnylady (Sarah's landlady) discuss her story, concluding that she was out of touch with reality.

A: Adrienne Kennedy Pf: 1962, New York Pb: 1969 G: Drama in 1 act S: New York apartment, indeterminate time C: 3 m, 5f

In this atmospheric piece for which she received an Obie Award, African-American Kennedy, who had just returned from a lengthy visit to Ghana, explores aspects of her own life as a black woman educated amongst whites, who finds herself mentally split between her African inheritance and her situation as a middle-class American intellectual.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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