Blood Money and Bad Pennies: Monstrous Money in Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End


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The article seeks to enlarge our understanding of American attitudes toward money and capitalism during the Great Depression and during our own era by analyzing an extremely popular but critically neglected play from the 1930s, Sidney Kingsley’s Dead End. In keeping with the mode of literary and dramatic naturalism that dominates so much thirties drama, money and economic relations are repeatedly implicated in what Dead End wants to encode as the monstrous deformity of a “natural” order. At the same time however, as a late-Depression play that wants to point a way forward, Dead End ultimately cannot find a way to do this that transcends the money economy, and so ultimately attempts to demonstrate a positive result of the very characteristics of money it has critiqued. As a result, Dead End identifies money and the increasing commodification of life as both that which traps characters and that which frees them, the fixer and the dissolver of stable identity, a monstrously distorting force and a force for self-making.


Arts and Humanities | Other Theatre and Performance Studies

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