Two brothers abandoned by their parents at a very premature age, learn first hand the very harsh and haunting results of being brought up without parental guidance. Topdog/Underdog, written by Suzan-Lori Parks, takes the audience into an environment composed of dialogue between only two characters. The two brothers, Lincoln and Booth; which were said to be names given to them as a cruel joke by their father, are forced to raise each other and fend for themselves. Lincoln, the older of the two, gives up a life of coning people out of their money to lead a more honest and respectable life, only to fall back into deceiving and cheating people once more. Booth, on the other hand, wishes he had the skills to “con” people and curses Lincoln for attempting to lead a more sincere life. The constant back and forth dialogue between Lincoln and Booth throughout the entire play reveals a plethora of psychological characteristics and attributes both individuals possess. When looking at personality traits of both characters it becomes apparent that there are many similarities that tie the two brothers together. Differences between the characters give each a clear and separate identity and allow Lincoln and Booth to clash, eventually ending their relationship through the most dramatic and brutal means imaginable. From the beginning to the end of Topdog/Underdog there is no positive growth or character development, in actuality the exact opposite occurs. Both characters do not develop, but rather deteriorate; hitting what appears to be rock bottom by the end of the play. The destruction of Lincoln and Booth is due in large part to the childhood and experiences each had while growing up as part of a highly dysfunctional family. Lincoln is original portrayed as attempting to clean up his lifestyle and live an honest and truthful existence. However, when it is revealed that Lincoln has been coning Booth out of his money, from practically the start of the play, it becomes apparent that in many ways both brothers are one and the same.
In order to clearly understand both Lincoln and Booths current lifestyle and psychological characteristics the scattered and often fragmented discussions of their past childhood and parental guidance need to be addressed. The nonexistence of parental figures or role models throughout most of their childhood has created the situation both characters find themselves in at the start of Topdog/Underdog. Lincoln and Booth find themselves leading empty lives. Already in their thirties, both characters have nothing to show for it. Lincoln has been divorced by his wife, lost all his money he gained through coning people on the streets by playing three-card monte and has no place to call his own. Quite similarly to his brother, Booth has no job of his own, which results in his girlfriend losing interest in him. He constantly attempts to convince his brother to help him in leading a life of coning and manipulating people out of their money, as a means of climbing out of the hole Booth finds himself in. The life of emptiness both characters lead comes from the constant feeling of being worthless, they felt growing up. “I think there was something out there that they liked more than us and for years they was struggling against moving towards that more liked something” (67). Being the older brother, Lincoln accepts the reality of why his parents left him and Booth. The “something out there,” Lincoln is discussing is the ability for his parents to have multiple sexual partners. Both Lincoln and Booth catch their parents having affairs with other people. The similarities between the two brothers empty lifestyles and desire of gaining money through the coning of innocent strangers, is directly correlated to the way both brothers were brought up.
Watching their parents cheat on each other, lead lives of deception and show virtual no love for their children instilled the notion of looking out for your...
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