Analysis

Grandma makes her exit. First, however, she waxes nostalgic over her departure, finally revealing the contents of the ubiquitous wrapped boxes. To this point, the audience has only heard that these boxes are nicely wrapped, that they had to be wrapped even though wrapping frightened Grandma and hurt her fingers. Though Grandma almost reveals the boxes' purpose—and perhaps then her intention to escape—halfway through the play, Mommy quickly silences her. Perhaps Mommy and Daddy's insistence on their wrapping metaphorizes their negligence toward Grandma. In a play where an outwardly perfect Young Man becomes the son who provides satisfaction, it is probably easiest to consider Mommy and Daddy's patronizing emphasis on the boxes' wrapping as indicative of their satisfaction with surfaces. The boxes of course also serve as a diversion when the household attempts to ascertain the purpose of Mrs. Barker's visit. They perhaps then also allegorize the composition of the play, which largely consists of apparent and perpetually surprising diversions that keep the audience from the heart of the matter. In any case, it appears that Grandma has prepared for her flight from her entrance directly under the noses of Mommy and Daddy. She has eluded them through her obviousness. Perversely, she covers her last tracks by turning one of their fictions against them. With Grandma's ostensible exit with the "van man", a fiction revenges itself against the household, intruding—like the death of Martha and Georgia's child in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf—into the action. Notably, the fiction does not invade the "real" but into the equally fictional spectacle on-stage: instead, a subterfuge, a "second-order" fiction so to speak, breaks in. This fiction conceals Grandma's exit from this spectacle's frame, her exit into the "outside", the reality of the audience. This crossing back and forth—like the Grandma's crossing between first and second order fictions—only functions to contaminate that reality with the "absurdity" of the scene on-stage.

In crossing between the spaces of the action and theater, Grandma literally becomes a commentator on the spectacle from the outside. Thus the reader should note how Mommy is quick to forget Grandma's absence upon the unveiling of the American Dream; the spectator perhaps wonders why she and Daddy do not perceive her by the footlights even as Mrs. Barker and the Young Man do. Certainly throughout the play Mommy wishes for Grandma's departure. Here their blindness to Grandma's presence—exaggerated by the Young Man's error over the glasses—is also a blindness to the staged nature of the denouement and Grandma's ensuing criticism, a shared denial that aims at preserving the hope that satisfaction will be theirs.

The celebration of the Young Man's arrival, however, is certainly a joke. His unveiling is less a miracle than a vulgar transaction; note his stilted introduction to and Mommy's gratuitous reference to the family's prosperity. Mommy's intimate aside with the Young Man and Daddy's sudden sullenness conceivable suggests an attempt at seduction as well, an attempt wholly consistent with the play's fantasy of the bad mother. Thus Grandma looks on ironically; her abrupt interruption and glib farewell clearly offer up the household to the audience's judgment.