Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Kelly Reames (Director), Sandra Hughes, Lloyd Davies

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Despite the growing feminist discourse in America, ageism continues to be a problem, partially due to stereotypical representations of aging women in the media and in literature. This thesis examines the portrayals of aging women in four American dramas: Zona Gale’s Miss Lulu Bett, Edward Albee’s The American Dream and The Sandbox, and Tracey Letts’ August: Osage County. Each of the aging matriarchs in these dramas plays a different role within her family structure; however, all employ others’ perceptions of them as a means of gaining or keeping control over their own situation. Chapter 1 examines Mrs. Bett from Zona Gale’s Miss Lulu Bett, and how she uses the way she is perceived by her family as a means of helping her daughter, even though her own fate is set. Chapter 2 explores the character Grandma from Edward Albee’s The American Dream and The Sandbox, and the ways in which Grandma uses her family’s perception of her, as well as her own rhetoric about aging, to establish her own selfdefinition. Chapter 3 discusses Violet, the matriarch of the family in Tracey Letts’s August: Osage County, and how she uses the way her family perceives her as a way to control the family’s destruction.


American Literature | Creative Writing