Abstract

A family systems analysis of Sam Shepard's Buried Child reveals that this family of outcasts is involved in a cyclical pattern of self-destruction. They are unable to cope with two horrible events overshadowing them: incest and infanticide. The family—already dysfunctional—tries to suppress any memory of these events in an effort to maintain homeostasis and a sense of normalcy, but their suppression only adds to their dysfunction. It is not the incest and infanticide that wreaks havoc on the family. Instead, it is their reaction: instead of coping with the events through open communication, their sense of shame renders them silent, and this silence affects every interaction among the family members, whether or not it is related to the incest and infanticide.

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