Discussion of Family in Brighton Beach Memoirs

Essay by apbsHigh School, 10th gradeB+, November 2008

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Despite all the challenges the family in Neil Simon’s, Brighton Beach Memoirs, face, they still remain together as a family and their unity is aided by the characters, Jack and Stanley. Jack is the father figure and makes the decisions for the good of the family and Stanley is a caring, helping older brother to Eugene. Jack and Stanley are positive impact in their family.

Jack, the father, is in control and he’s the one everyone looks to when they have problems. When Nora was offered a chance to dance on Broadway by Mr. Bennetton in her dance school, she asked Jack whether or not she should quit school to dance. When Stanley stood up for the colored janitor at work and his job depended on a letter of apology to his boss, he went to Jack for advice. In both these cases, Jack didn’t just make the decision for them.

Instead, he gave them advice saying, “It’s not my place to make decisions for you. But I can offer advice. Advice is free. If it doesn’t fit, you can always return it” (52). Not only does Jack help the children to make their own decisions, he actively tries to keep the family together. For example, Kate and Blanche had a huge fight and Blanche threatened to move out. Jack says, “Blanche, stop this! …Scream at her! Yell at her… And when you both got it out of your systems, give each other a hug and go have dinner” (103-104). Jack is a major element in the unity of the family.

Another character who helps the family dynamic is Eugene’s older brother, Stanley. Although he sometimes has lapses in judgment, Stanley is a good older brother to Eugene. He helps Eugene grow up and Jack notices too because he ways, “I never knew a thing about girls until my brother taught me. Isn’t it like that with you and Eugene?” (123). Stanley comforts Eugene’s fears on masturbation, teaches him tricks to see up girls’ skirts, and shows him a picture of a naked French woman. He’s also concerned about Eugene’s future and when he sees Eugene’s report card, he says, “Four A’s and a B…That’s good. That’s real good, Eugene…You’re smart…I want you to go to college…I want you to be somebody important someday…Because I’m not. I’m no damn good” (85). Stanley helps the family, and helps Eugene in particular to grow up.

All families have the hardheads, the soft-hearted, and the mediators who keep everyone together. Despite the fighting and hardships the family goes through, Jack and Stanley mediate and keep it whole. To coin a corny phrase, they’re the glue that holds everyone together.

Simon, Neil. "Brighton Beach Memoirs." New York: Plume, 1995.