Clybourne Park: Important quotes with page numbers
1. “I do love to entertain though for the life of me I can’t remember the last time we did. ” (Act I, Page 8) Bev says this when, while packing to move out of their house in Clybourne Park, she attempts to give their maid, Francine, a chafing dish. Her lack of need for a chafing dish foreshadows the as-yet-unknown reason that she and Russ stopped entertaining. This quote also reveals Bev’s hospitable nature, as later evidenced by her continuous offers of iced tea to her house guests.
2. “That’s a funny word, isn’t it? Neapolitan…what do you suppose is the origin of that? ” (Act I, Page 8) These lines begin a back-and-forth between Bev and Russ that continues for three-and-a-half pages, and will be mirrored in Act II of the play. Their conversation concerns tracking the etymology of the word Neapolitan, the kind of ice cream Russ is eating, and progresses into trying to remember the correct words for various nationalities. Their knowledge and ignorance of these words shows that they both have a basic, middle-class education level, though Russ more so than Bev, and an unabashed curiosity about others. Attempts to find a shared vocabulary recur throughout the play.
3. “But that’s nice, isn’t it, in a way? To know we all have our place. ” (Act I, Page 10) Bev and Russ’s conversation about nationality leads them to the word “mongoloid”, which was used, at the time, to describe a person with developmental disabilities. Russ reminds Bev of theword’s usage, and she remembers the Wheeler boy, who works as a bagger at their neighborhood grocery store. In reference to him, she and Russ both touch their heads euphemistically rather than make explicit comments about his disability.
The idea in this line, that everyone has a place in society, and the implication that everyone is okay with their place, will be challenged many times over the course of the play.
4. “Then I choose to remain powerless. ” (Act I, Page 14) This response to Jim’s assertion that “knowledge is power” (14) reveals Bev’s decision to adhere to the maximignorance is bliss. Her choice is made possible by her position as a white woman of upper-middle economic class. Having these identities creates a kind of privilege shelter for Bev in which electing not to become less ignorant is a viable and comfortable position.
5. “I’m not a psychiatrist or anything but I do think a lotta people today have this tendency, tendency to brood about stuff, which, if you ask me is, is, is…not productive. ” (Act I, Page 18) Though the suicide of his only child has clearly affected Russ on a deep level, he insists, even to those who seem to truly care about his well-being, like Jim and Bev, that he is fine. His advice to those who brood is to get up and do something, despite the fact that Russ himself has withdrawn from his social life and is currently sitting half-dressed in a chair eating ice cream out of the carton while his wife and maid pack up the house.
6. “I think you know your son was a good man. Hero to his country. Nothing changes that. ” (Act I, Page 19) In an attempt to get Russ to open up about how his grief has affected him, Jim offers sincere words about Russ and Bev’s son, Kenneth, that allude to the circumstances leading to his suicide. He also speaks about Kenneth with respect, rather than avoiding the subject or talking about it behind closed doors, as Russ will later accuse other community members of doing.
7. “I don’t know what I would do without a friend like Francine here, and on a Saturday, I mean she is just a treasure. ” (Act I, Page 21) Bev referring to her employee as a friend sets up the moment in Act II when Lindsey, asked to name her black friends, includes her co-worker. Though Francine doesn’t have many lines, it’s clear that, though their relationship is amicable, she considers Bev her employer, rather than her friend. She wouldn’t be at their house on a Saturday unless she needed money. Bev will later use her supposed friendship with Francine as evidence of her racial tolerance.
8. “Of course I said Negro to them. ” (Act I, Page 28) 32 Karl first refers to the family who’s purchased Russ and Bev’s home as “colored”’ When Jim asks whether “Negro” is the preferred term now, Karl responds with the above. This kind of behind-closed-doors lack of regard for people of color pervades Karl’s interactions, though he believes that his use of what he sees as the “correct” word when directly addressing a black person absolves him of his racism.
9. “Some would say change is inevitable. And I can support that, if it’s change for the better. But I’ll tell you what I can’t support, and that’s the disregarding the needs of the people who live in the community. ” (Act I, Page 29) Karl assumes that all of the white people who live in his neighborhood share his racist way of thinking. He believes that black families moving into Clybourne Park somehow disregards the needs of the neighborhood, but he fails to specifically name any way in which this might happen.
10. “Do they carry collard greens and pig feet? ‘Cuz I sho couldn’t shop nowhere that didn’ sell no pig feet. ” (Act I, Pages 32-33) Albert’s joke—that he wouldn’t shop at a market that didn’t carrystereotypically “black” food items—is delivered in a thick dialect and gets lost on everyone but Jim. He’s attempting to reveal the futility of the white people’s conversation about racial differences as based on alleged food preferences.
11. “There is just something about the pastime of skiing that doesn’t appeal to the Negro community. ” (Act I, Pages 33) Karl fails to account for the fact that skiing is a pastime that requires more than just an interest in the sport. The comment reveals his historical, cultural, and economic blindspots when it comes to black America. Skiing requires access via money for the equipment,transportation to and from the skiing area, and leisure time.
During the mid-1950s, these were luxuries afforded to a smaller number of black Americans than white. This comment contrasts with Kevin’s in Act Two, which takes place in 2009, when more black Americans had access to these things, and could afford to take ski vacations.
12. “First one family will leave, then another, and another, and each time they do, the values of these properties will decline, and once that process begins, once you break that egg, Bev, all the king’s horses, etcetera. ” (Act I, Page 35)
This explanation represents much of white America’s fears about black economic mobility and movement into cities post-WWII. Like Karl, they believed that the mere presence of people of color in predominantly-white communities would cause property values to decline. He gives no other explanation for his views, and assumes that everyone else is on the same page.
13. “And while you’re at it, why don’t you tell ’em about everything the community did for my son. I mean Jesus Christ, Murray Gelman hires a goddamn retarded kid, but not my boy? ” (Act I, Page 38).
Karl doesn’t find a sympathetic or conciliatory ear in Russ, who does not share Karl’s enthusiasm for preserving their community. He feels it is fake and exclusive of those who don’t fit exact molds. After Kenneth came home from fighting in the Korean War, rumors circulated in the community that he had killed civilians while serving. These rumors led to his, Russ, and Bev’s ostracization from the community that had once embraced and included them. This, probably coupled with untreated PTSD, likely led to Kenneth’s suicide.
14. “I think they’re all a buncha idiots. And who’s the biggest idiot of all to let yourself get dragged into the middle of it? ” (Act I, Page 40) Albert’s attempt to break up a physical confrontation between Russ and Jim infuriates Russ, who feels Albert is overstepping his boundaries. In one of her few lines of dialogue, Francine tells Albert to disengage, and privately expresses her personal feelings about her employers and her friends.
15. “I don’t want to get in a situation where we thought we found a solution only to have it turn out we’re screwed because of the language. ” (Act II, Page 45)
The play’s second act begins similarly to the first, with the characters searching for the proper words to describe what they’re talking about. In the first act, it’s nationality, while in the second act, it’s real estate terms that will determine the legality of the construction Steve and Lindsey plan to undertake. This line shows the importance of having a shared vocabulary in preventing misunderstandings when discussing not only legal matters, but identity-related matters, too.
16. “Oh wait. You know what it is? It’s Timbuktu. ” (Act II, Page 51) One of the many times the conversation drifts from its intended purpose, the group begins discussing their trips abroad. Kathy says she and her husband went to Morocco once and then incorrectly names Marrakech as the country’s capital. The conversation moves on, but Steve, in what becomes a pattern for his character, won’t let it go, and tries to prove her wrong. Kathy never admits that she doesn’t know the capital.
17. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt anyone, but—” (Act II, Page 51) Lena tries politely to have her voice heard multiple times, but is interrupted each time she begins to speak. The erasure of a black woman’s voice by a chorus of white voices mirrors the kind of erasure Lena fears that the gentrification of Clybourne Park will bring, beginning with Steve and Lindsey’s proposed changes to her great-aunt’s home.
18. “I think we’d all agree that there’s a mutual benefit to maintaining the integrity—the architectural integrity…of a historically significant—goddamn it—neighborhood. ” (Act II, Pages 54-55) Kevin and Lena’s lawyer, Tom, tries to frame their argument for preserving the home’s structure as is in terms of aesthetics, rather than social or cultural terms.
By calling it a “mutual benefit,” he hopes to get Steve and Lindsey to see that it’s in their interest as homeowners to preserve the neighborhood’s continuity, too. His cell phone ringing, however, interrupts the point he’s making and he cuts himself short to take the call.
19. “But what I mean is—So you don’t literally mean…monetary value. Right? ” (Act II, Page 60) Steve interprets Lena’s deep personal connection to the house as strictly sentimental and, therefore, doesn’t feel personally affected enough to halt their renovation plans.
He thinks that their construction will contribute to rising home values in the neighborhood, and fails to see how those rising values may contribute to population displacement.
20. “There was a great article two weeks ago—I don’t know if you saw this—about the history of the changing, uh, ethnic—” (Act II, Page 61) Faced with a frank conversation about the consequences of gentrification for a lifelong resident of Clybourne Park, Lindsey turns to the stereotypically – liberal move of referencing an article, rather than trusting Lena’s first-hand experience.
Her speech is halted, though, revealing her discomfort with not only the subject, but her positionality in relation to and approach to talking about it.
21. “We’ve been to Prague. ” (Act II, Page 63) When Steve tries to explain the origins of the word “ghetto” to Lena vis-a-vis the Jewish ghetto in Prague, she dismisses him with this line. Her dismissal shows her lack of regard for Steve’s arrogance, and also her and Kevin’sability to take vacations to Europe. This in turn shows thesocioeconomic status of Clybourne Park’s residents has risen since her great-aunt moved there in the 1950s.
22. “Okay. No. No, I’m sorry, but that is wrong. ” (Act II, Page 67) Lindsey’s reaction to Lena’s revelation that Kenneth hung himself in the house upsets her more than anything else they discuss. She feels that the realtor should be legally obligated to disclose that kind of information, but Kathy informs her that it’s not the case. That Lindsey feels more strongly about how living in this space will affect her than how demolishing and rebuilding a historic house will affect an entire neighborhood reveals the hollowness of the liberal sensibilities she espouses.
23. “It might be worth asking yourself who exactly is responsible for that change? ” (Act II, Page 70) Rather than explicitly stating her position on gentrification, Lena tries to guide Steve and Lindsey to see her point with calculated language. She’s asking them to consider that perhaps it would be better if the lifelong residents of Clybourne Park could make changes to their own neighborhood, rather than outsiders with money. She fears that the changes proposed by Steve and Lindsey are a slippery slope that will lead to population displacement and permanent changes to Clybourne Park.
24. “You’re trying to tell me…That this entire conversation…isn’t at least partly informed—am I right? By the issue of…of racism? ” (Act II, Page 72) The issue of race and racism implicitly underlies the entire conversation during Act Two. Lena’s approach—to address it without naming it—is lost on Steve and Lindsey, who initially interpret her concerns as strictly personal. However, it becomes clear that they are engaged in a much larger conversation addressing issues of historical, systemic racism in the United States, as well as the consequences of gentrifying historically non-white neighborhoods.
25. “You can’t be offended, you moron—” (Act II, Page 77) Lindsey repeatedly tries to get Steve to refrain from telling a racist joke, and generally putting his foot in his mouth. In this moment, she tries to explain privilege to him, but he’s not ready to receive it. Though she’s adept at recognizing Steve’s privilege, she often fails to acknowledge the position her whiteness affords her, instead focusing on her marginalization as a woman.