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King Hedley II as an Act of “Resolution”in the Pittsburgh Cycle

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2013, 26(3), pp.191-220
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Cho,Eun-Young 1

1전주대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper examines King Hedley II in the whole spectrum of the Pittsburgh Cycle. Wilson perceives of the 1980s as a period of loss and rupture in terms of black lives but of history, too. The African American community in the play is in need of spiritual and social regeneration which is possible only through the recognition of the blacks’ acknowledging of their own worth which in turn is possible through their acceptance of their past. King Hedley II is the least appreciated play among the ten plays and the dominant criticism against the play is that it is excessively violent, overly dark, and too long. It was also criticized for having an unduly complicated back story, too. Situating the play in the whole spectrum of the 10 plays, however, could effectively explain the necessity of those elements many critics have doubts about. To examine the plays in the Pittsburgh Cycle from their actual order of composition enables the reader to see that connecting Seven Guitars and King Hedley II is essential to provide for the kind of conclusion the author had in mind for the grand conclusion of black experience during the 20th century. Written right before the opening and concluding plays in the Pittsburgh Cycle, King Hedley II functions as an act of resolution necessary for the spiritual and social regeneration of the black community. With the sacrificial death of King Hedley II presided over by Stool Pigeon, King Hedley II, unfairly criticized for being pointlessly violent and pessimistic, ends with the intimations of imminent resurrection of Aunt Ester, the repository of the black community’s collective memory. It is Wilson’s firm idea that as long as Aunt Ester’s presence or the promise of it remains, the shared history of the community can be passed on, and the integrity of the black community can flourish.

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