American Buffalo

How does David Mamet use imagery in American Buffalo?

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American Buffalo takes place m Don's Resale Shop, a secondhand "antique" store (really a junk store) run by Don Dubrow. Although Mamet's script never describes the set in any detail, the play's scenic designers have always made a point of filling the stage with as much junk as possible: Clive Barnes (writing for the New York Times') called the Broadway set "astonishing" and described it as "an agglomeration of trash that must have taken a team of assistants months to acquire." This same praise was even offered by critics who found fault with the play itself. For example, writing for the Wall Street Journal, Edwin Wilson found the play "not heavy enough" but the set to be a "triumph of clutter." The set, therefore, serves as a way for a viewer to instantly create some assumptions about the characters, specifically, that they are lower class, small-time "businessmen" who spend their days surrounded by the debris of other people's success. As Frank Rich of the New York Times stated, the junk shop is a "cage emblematic of the men's tragic sociological imprisonment."

However, the setting does more than allow Mamet's trio a space in which to scheme their robbery; it allows the playwright to highlight the notion that the characters are living in a world of metaphorical "junk." Throughout the play, Don and Teach give and receive lessons on such topics as honor, capitalism, and friendship topics which are abandoned and left for "junk" when their robbery plan becomes threatened or when they fear they might miss their chance to make some easy money Although they profess to have solid codes of "business" ethics, their desire to succeed pushes them into a world of moral * 'junk."