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A Body Across the Map

The Father-Son Plays of Sam Shepard


Michael Taav

As an actor, screenwriter, director, short story writer, and, most significantly, a playwright, Sam Shepard has long been an important figure on the American cultural landscape. A Body Across the Map focuses on the character conflict central to Shepard’s most significant plays; that between fathers and sons. Beginning with The Rock Garden and concluding with A Lie of the Mind, this analysis shows how Shepard’s worldview has evolved over a 20-year span. A long-standing pessimist who saw Oedipal revenge as a necessity, and genetic determination as inescapable, Shepard ultimately disavows these dark worldviews in favor of one where gentleness, spiritual generosity, cooperation, and the acceptance of long-denied truths prevail over rage, self-interest, and biological predestination.