Lesson Plans Waiting for Lefty
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Back at the union meeting, an old worker named Agate Keller offers a rambling speech.
Waiting for Lefty Lesson Plans for Teachers | danawahafake.tk
Yet Keller also shows a passionate attachment to the working-class cause. As an eleven-year-old factory worker, he lost an eye in an industrial accident; he mentions that there was a union in that factory but that its officers were corrupt and did nothing for the members. Fatt again tries to shout him down and the gunman approaches menacingly, but Keller breaks away and continues. He might never come. In Scene VI, Barnes is a hospital administrator torn between his convictions and his professional obligations.
Benjamin; but he is also powerless to change these decisions, and sees no choice but to carry them out. A talented and dedicated young surgeon, Dr. The experience persuades him of the truth of communist theory and fires his determination to fight the capitalist system. He is tempted to emigrate to Russia, in order to work under a system of socialized medicine but decides to stay in America even though this means giving up the medical career for which his parents sacrificed so much to provide him.
He takes a job as a cab driver and becomes a member of the strike committee. Having participated in a failed taxi strike there a few months ago, he offers that bitter experience to convince the members that a strike is useless. A dedicated union organizer and presumably a communist , he enjoys the confidence of the workers and seems to be their true leader, the driving force behind the strike effort.
He has been elected chairman of the strike committee, and his absence at the meeting is troubling; it seems the members are counting on his leadership to stand up to Fatt and make the eagerly-awaited strike a reality. Lefty recalls other heroic, martyred organizers of union lore, like the legendary folk-singer Joe Hill. Though their loss is deeply felt, such figures are never considered irreplaceable, for their cause is one of mass action.
Though they have depended on him, they do not need a leader to give them power; they need only seize the collective power they had always had, by standing together in defiance. He is unmoved by the desperate poverty of the workers he claims to serve. He is purposely exaggerated, a constant force of pure evil. Yet Fatt is determined to prevent it and to maintain control by any possible means, including murder.
In Scene V, Odets emphasizes this connection by having Fatt act the role of Grady, the wealthy theatrical producer. Like other bosses, Fatt can be defeated only by the collective action of the workers, who rise triumphantly against him as the curtain falls. In Scene II, he offers his employee, the lab assistant Miller, an attractive but unsavory proposition: a generous raise and promotion if he will only agree to help develop fearsome chemical weapons and also agree to spy on his fellow scientists.
Fayette is untroubled by the ethical concerns that consume Miller; his only principles seem to be profit and self-interest. When he pays for his transgressions with a solid punch in the mouth, the audience is meant to feel that it is richly-deserved. Their situation resembles that of Joe and Edna in Scene I; however, their scene is not a confrontation but an emotional tableaux a staged depiction, often without words of shared misery.
The pathos of their reluctant parting is only leavened by the suggestion that his heartbreak leads Sid to join the union cause, the only possible hope of changing their circumstances. He plays a wealthy theatre producer from whom Philips seeks an acting job. He is extravagantly rich, thoroughly self-indulgent, and all but blind to the suffering of others. Though he has few lines, he is as sinister a figure as Fatt himself, a constant menace. In political terms, he represents all the various forces of violence military, police, or reactionary gangs at the disposal of those in power.
His kind is used to bully the workers into submission and crush any threat to the establishment. In the final scene, both Fatt and the Gunman try to physically restrain Agate Keller—and, significantly, are unable to do so. He adopts a stern, paternal tone perhaps taking the role of their absent father , urging her to break off the affair and threatening Sid with violence if he persists in his attentions. Agate Keller is the last strike-committee member to address the meeting, and he leads the workers in the final call for a strike. As he continues, and receives the support of his comrades, his speech grows more lucid, plain-spoken, and passionate.
His conversion to the movement grows out of a crucial career decision. His boss, the powerful industrialist Fayette, offers him an attractive promotion and a chance to work with a renowned chemist. He refuses the job and is promptly fired.
Valuable lessons learned from 1935 play “Waiting for Lefty”
In Scene I, Edna provides the motivation for her husband Joe to become active in the strike movement. Edna loves Joe and knows that he is not to blame for their condition. She also knows, however, that their condition is truly desperate and this knowledge provokes her to consider desperate measures. He is not motivated by political abstractions but by the hard facts of life: the hopeless poverty that engulfs his family and the families of his fellow workers. In Scene I, he is goaded into action by his long-suffering wife, Edna. Though he works hard, they are falling further behind, and he feels powerless to change things.
She nags, pleads, and finally threatens to leave him; at last, her desperation breaks through his denial, opening his eyes to the fact that only a strike can force the cab companies to pay a living wage. He chooses to stand and fight for his family, and that decision is what keeps his family together. Disillusioned, feeling less-than-human in his defeat, Philips is ready for the message of the Communist Manifesto and the hope of revolution. Introduced to communism by the secretary, he goes on to serve as a member of the strike committee.
In private, she freely expresses her contempt for her boss and for all that he stands. Her devotion to the cause mirrors religious fervor, and she speaks of the Communist Manifesto in biblical terms, leaving no doubt that it contains a truth that will set him free. Odets wrote Waiting for Lefty while a member of the Communist Party and intended it as a work of propaganda to promote the cause of a socialist revolution in America much like the one that took place in Russia on November 6, Characters are clearly identified by class, and these classes are presented in vivid opposition: on the one hand, virtuous and long-suffering members of the working class; on the other, the greedy, inhumane capitalists who exploit them at every turn.
The villainous Harry Fatt is a purposely exaggerated stereotype, and even the heroic workers border on cartoonishness in their constant, one-dimensional nobility. The effect of all this is far from subtle and may tempt modern readers to consider the work beyond all credibility.
Waiting for Lefty Lesson Plans for Teachers
But given its specific, highly political purposes aimed at a specific moment in time, it may be unfair to evaluate Waiting for Lefty by traditional critical standards. Odets sought to dramatize Marxism—a notoriously dry and complex theory whose expressions are often mired in specialized jargon and clinical abstractions.
As Dr. The wide variety of characters, and the diversity of paths they follow to the strike meeting, cuts across many traditional boundaries of class. Impoverished blue-collar workers like Joe and Sid, for example, are often considered to inhabit a different world from that of salaried, relatively-privileged professionals like Dr.
Benjamin or the lab assistant Miller—yet they all belong to the strike committee, and the union is presumably stronger for the combination of their talents and backgrounds, the confluence of various classes working together. Had Miller and Dr. Together, their stories demonstrate the many, insidious ways the system sustains itself and abuses those dependent upon it for their livelihood. Class struggle, according to Marx, is the primary fact of economic existence, and Odets holds to it as a central theme, though his work unfolds in a radically different form. The full stage—extending into the audience—represents the strike meeting.
The simplified stagecraft thus reflects practical considerations, for it enables the work to be produced in any large meeting-hall, cheaply and with a minimum of technical sophistication. Waiting for Lefty was not meant to be viewed with detachment, as an abstract literary fantasy, but to be experienced directly with the urgency of a real-life crisis. In more ways than one, Odets intended Waiting for Lefty as a play of the people. Waiting for Lefty was inspired by a taxi strike in New York City, an event that would still have been fresh in the minds of its original, audience.
Odets and his colleagues in the Group Theatre were dedicated political activists and saw their work in the theatre as the means to a much greater purpose: promoting a mass movement for a socialist revolution in America. Banks and businesses had failed, millions of people were without work—and, for several years following the stock market crash of , the efforts of business and government leaders to manage the situation had done little to stem the tide of human suffering.
Activist movements of many kinds sprang up and enjoyed wide popularity—some resembling the right-wing fascist movements rising in Europe particularly those found in Nazi Germany. Other movements adopted a left-wing communist or socialist orientation. Leftist philosophies found a particular appeal among industrial workers as well as a great many young artists and intellectuals—including Clifford Odets, who joined the American Communist Party in Though his party membership lasted only eight months, it included the period in which Waiting for Lefty was written. To promote its realization, they felt, was a noble and idealistic cause.
Its productions were overtly political and propagandistic—intended not to amuse but to educate and to inspire the audience to mass action.
They considered themselves above such motivations as profit for the producers or fame and fortune for the actors. They would harness its emotional power to spread the word and to raise the spirits of the struggling masses. In Waiting for Lefty , Odets dramatizes communist theory, translating politics to the level of the personal. He designed it to be adaptable for informal performance by small, nonprofessional groups.
And for several years Waiting for Lefty was produced as a popular fundraiser by leftist political organizations and union factions throughout the country.
For Odets and his colleagues, the success of their work would not be measured in box office receipts nor critical approval but in the number of people it inspired in the struggle to transform society. Despite encouraging signs, the New Deal , which enacted government-sponsored work programs to put people back to work, was highly controversial.
To workers, the New Deal gave government support to the movement for industrial unionization—which had long been an arena for leftist organizers. Many saw hope in this flowering of unionism, for it seemed to be just the sort of working-class, mass action that communism advocates. Workers must maintain control of their own movement, and stand united to ensure that their will is carried out.
Those associated with causes like the Group Theatre often faced the choice of giving up their careers or compromising their principles in hopes of getting off the list. Commonly, they would be asked to swear a loyalty oath, renounce their past leftist associations, and testify freely about the activities of their colleagues. Odets had been writing screenplays since and was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in He testified about his activities in the s, evidently enough to satisfy the subcommittee and remove himself from further suspicion.
He is said to have been tormented by the matter until his death in , and he produced relatively little writing, for stage or screen, after his subcommittee appearance. Since its opening, Waiting for Lefty has been considered a prime example of the dramatic genre known as agitprop and also known as revolutionary theatre and proletarian drama, among other labels. The play is often considered the definitive example of this genre. It was the birth cry of the thirties.
Our youth had found its voice. For several years, productions of the play were staged as fundraisers and morale boosters by a variety of left-wing organizations. While he produced one of its most celebrated works, Odets wrote little else in the agitprop vein. His later dramas and screenplays are far more conventional, with little emphasis on overt political messages. For this reason—coupled with his commercial success on Broadway and in Hollywood—many of his revolutionary comrades accused him of selling out the cause and betraying his principles.
Odets clearly changed his thinking in some ways and came to renounce his Communist Party membership. Other critics, however, question whether he experienced any abrupt reversal in his earlier conceptions of drama. In such works as Awake and Sing! In that light, it may be somewhat irrelevant that, by most accounts, the play no longer inspires the admiration and enthusiasm it sparked in the s. To modern tastes, it typically appears as an anachronism, obsolete in both style and substance.
Its slogan laced dialogue seems forced and unnatural, while its broad characterizations seem simplistic and melodramatic. Most importantly, the solution it offers—a communist revolution—appears in a radically different light for modern audiences. During the Depression, it appeared as a viable and desirable alternative; true believers thought they could glimpse it on the horizon. But after decades of tense Cold War geopolitics followed by the rapid decline of world communism in the lates, to even consider such a revolution possible requires an imaginative leap.
Faulkner is a professional writer with a B. If you approached Clifford Odets in and told him that his celebrated play Waiting for Lefty was a work of communist propaganda, he would not likely have been insulted or alarmed. He would probably consider it an accurate description of his drama, exactly what he had intended to create. A few years later, however, the same phrase could only be taken as a vicious accusation, equivalent to being called traitor: the propagandist was no less than an enemy to his own country, preaching an evil gospel that threatened all our cherished American ideals.
But to Odets and his leftist contemporaries in , the two sets of ideals were not necessarily contradictory; rather, they appeared as differing formulations of the same basic human longings. In their embrace of communism, leftist activists sought to realize the promise an American Dream they believed had long been. Waiting for Lefty thus presents a curious spectacle to the modern imagination: an all-American communist uprising. While the deprivations of the Great Depression made leftist ideas more attractive to many Americans, the stereotype remained in circulation, and it was a staple of anticommunist agitation.
A close reading of Waiting for Lefty reveals that Odets sought to counter this widespread perception by presenting revolutionaries whose actions were grounded firmly in the American mainstream. As the unqualified villain of the play, the arrogant union boss Harry Fatt provides a reliable barometer of how not to interpret the action. If there is a threat to the sanctity of the American family, the audience is meant to find it not in the specter of socialist revolution but in the deprivations required by the capitalist system.
Representatives of capital in the play behave in ways that offend traditional democratic ideals of equality and fair play.
Teaching Waiting for Lefty
Benjamin because he is Jewish and replace him with the murderously incompetent but politically well-connected Dr. They also close down a charity ward because it fails to turn a profit. Ancestors froze at Valley Forge! In anticommunist lore, such figures are primary villains, the lowest of the low. They serve a Godless, treasonous cause, employing any devious means to seduce their unwitting victims.
When she speaks of the Communist Manifesto, the stenographer uses the language of the Bible—implying that it is a kind of bible: a revelatory text, offering a truth that will set Philips free, a vision of heaven, and an inspiring message of hope. Instead, the audience is given a character very much like an evangelist, selflessly devoted to the saving of lost souls. The black and blue boys! We been Scene with Joe and Edna. I have to tell you, I'm really not sure. I pulled up all of the possible definition for this acronym, and the only one that would make any sense is Anterior and Posterior This really doesn't For what famous movie about fame did Odets write in screenplay?
Waiting for Lefty study guide contains a biography of Clifford Odets, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. Waiting for Lefty literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Waiting for Lefty. Remember me. Forgot your password? I believe you've answered your own question? Study Guide for Waiting for Lefty Waiting for Lefty study guide contains a biography of Clifford Odets, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.