You Can’t Take It With You by George Kaufman and Moses Hart is a comedic play that shows how people have shallow understanding of life and how these people hold primitive thoughts about the actuality of life. It is also a play that seeks to make take life as it is and enjoy it when they still can. The play offers descriptive and episodic events inform of dialogue. While the story triggers philosophical thoughts about life and human existence, the characters in the play engages in happiness madness citing that they do so while they still can because once they die, they will not enjoy the happiness and the pleasures that comes with life (Bryer & Alvarez, 299). This aspect leads to a notable contrast between genuine philosophical thoughts and comedy.
The play has a good combination of characters starting with the grandpa who is the central character in the play, son-in-law, daughter, grandchildren among others. The combination of the characters leads to the formation of entertainment in the play. It involves some romance, satire and ridiculous scenes and events which have all been used by the authors to help the readers in discovering the central themes besides enhancing the plot of the play. There are notable comedy elements illustrated in the play which have particularly helped in developing the plot. The play is set in New York and it takes place in a house that suitably holds a vast family.
The play is believed to be one of the highest priced stories in history (Chartier, 1). It is an intriguing play that compares with philosophical ideas in the sense that it makes the readers to ask questions about life, human existence as well as life after death. This is evidenced by the main character, Grandpa Vanderhof, who illustrates the idea that people should live life to the fullest because when they die, they will definitely live behind all the happiness and pleasures that comes with life. Such an assertion makes the reader to develop the questions of how life will be once one is dies or precisely what entails life after death.
The main characters in the play do what pleases them. Apparently, some want to enjoy life before they die owing to the fact that when they die they will leave earthly materials behind. It gives a clear example of just how irresponsible and extravagant human beings are. The play is a clear image of the modern society where people are filled with different thoughts and ideas about life. Additionally, it offers a good lesson about life and its encounters (Chartier, 1). Of note is that the themes and affairs that are found in the modern society are highlighted. It is important to note that the play highlight how human efforts are worthless when ones life is over. This is because people tend to work harder to achieve their goals in life but when they die, all that they have worked for is left behind probably left to be enjoyed by people who had little or nothing to do with them.
The authors have utilized a number of characters to help in development of the plot as well as assist in bringing into picture the subject matter of the play hence making the play to be character driven. The comedy encompasses over fifteen characters who seem to adapt the ideology and philosophy of the grandfather. Interestingly, some of the characters in the play are determined while others are helpless. Their determination is not directed into future but it is directed into living life comfortably at that moment. This is because they have fed their mind with the idea of death hence they do not work towards a better future (Chartier, 1). Despite the fact the characters behave in a weird manner, they appeal to the readers in the sense that the reader is also moved with the desire of wanting to live a happy life. In this regard we ascertain that the authors have utilized their appeal to ethos where the characters use language and behave in a way that attracts the interests of the reader. The free spirit demonstrated by the characters raises up the emotions of the reader thereby making the reader to feel attached to the play.
Evidently, play has utilized several characters, themes and other literary devices in order to develop the plot. It has clearly brought in major features that are used in bringing out a good writing and arrangement of thoughts. The reader is left with options of discovering the intended messages of the play through the characters as well as through the writing style that the authors utilize. It is essential to note that the main character has introduced the subject matter of free will whereby people can make their lives better through doing what pleases them a” long as it comes with great happiness, "Remember, all we ask is just to go along and be happy in our own sort of way" (Kaufman and Hart 709). It is live and everyone should live it freely and not through force. In this regard, the play is a compelling comedy suitable to be taught in schools as well as appropriate for family viewing. Scores of reviews have stated how the play is persuasive to its audience hence leading to notable awards such as the most popular awards, Pulitzer Price, which was awarded in 1936 (Brooks, 184)
The idea of unique and unconventional characters included in the play illustrates how people refuse to accept the harsh actuality of life. These characters may seem unreasonable but they play the role of making people understand the realities of life and seek for means to deal with life as it is (Brooks, 185). The play has a good sense of humor and it evidently hold significant relevant message that is found in the contemporary world. You Can’t Take It with You is an revitalizing play that notably makes the reader to see the harsh reality of life as well as understand how people behave differently in matters relating to life.
Of note is that the play is classified among the most impressive literary works where the authors have utilized scores of literary devices in order to drive home their intended themes. Any piece of literature that has rich literary devices and can be analyzed literary, theoretically and rhetorically are suitable to be taught in schools. In this regard, ‘You Can’t Take it With You’ has been positioned in the standard of essential theatrical, literary and rhetorical works that has been adapted in most schools (Brooks, 185). The play is also performed across the globe with a clear intention of making the readers to comprehend every assertion and provision of the play.
The play is not just a comedy directed to only making the audience to laugh but it is informing, persuasive and educative. From this perspective, the play tries to show the reader how important it is to enjoy life when you still can due to the fact that when death knocks on the door, one takes nothing with him, everything one has worked for and earned is left behind. It is an informal piece of literature whose main objective is to influence, affect, educate, persuade and inform the audience on major aspects of life. Grandfather, the central character, introduces people into living their lives as they please while directing their own providence.
Just like any other play with a hidden message,’ You Can’t Take It with You’, has been interpreted by several scholars in order to fit the life as it is in reality. Of note is that the play enlightens people to shun their priorities in monetary value but rather direct their priorities in leading a happy life. It tries to show people that while we need to work hard towards our goals in life, we also need to enjoy our life before it is over. From this notion, the play strives to give response to economic and social intricacies that people are faced with. It has been noted that the play is not a mere play but it depicts the struggles that most Americans were going through while trying to balance their lives (Bryer & Alvarez, 299).
Prior to the writing of the play, scores of American had lost their source of livelihood during the 1929 crash of the reserve market. While many scholars asserts that the authors acknowledge the fact that the American needed a break from the stressful economic times, the authors of the play wanted the society to understand that money is not valuable while stored in the banks, but it is more useful when it is utilized in order to achieve the happiness that comes with life “life is simple and kind of beautiful if you let it come to you" (Kaufman and Hart 750). However, the play helped scores of American in dealing with their tribulations and suffering during their most difficult times in life and it is for this reason that the play won itself a notable award in 1930 (Bryer & Alvarez, 231).
George Simon, Edna Ferber, Laurence Maslon. Kaufman & Co. Broadway Comedies. New York: Library of America, 2004.
Jackson R. Bryer, Ruth M. Alvarez. American Drama , 1918-1940: A survey of research and criticism. American Quarterly, 1978. 30(3), 298-330
Brooks Atkinson. Review of You Can't Take It with You (1936) On Stage: Selected Theater
Reviews from the New York Times, 1920−1970, edited by Bernard Beckerman and Howard Siegman, Arno Press, 1973, pp. 182−83.
Roy Chartier. You Can’t Take It With You. Retrieved June 13, 2011 from