Moral Ambiguity in the Aftermath of Blacklisting: Jeffrey Sweet’s “The Value of Names”

By Elizabeth Fifer.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Jeffrey Sweet’s play “The Value of Names” pits an informer against his victim when Leo Gershen, who named names, comes to visit Benny Silverman thirty years later to ask his forgiveness. Sweet does not offer a solution but evokes the era to raise disturbing questions. Is it necessary for the victim to forgive his accuser in order to put the painful history behind him and move on? The play’s characters are a reflection of past and present. Benny’s daughter Norma plans to act in a play Leo Gershen will direct. By setting the daughter’s needs beside her father’s Sweet allows us to see the McCarthy period through a personal, contemporary lens.

Keywords: Contemporary American Drama, Hollywood Blacklisting, Communist Paranoia in America in the 1950’s, Ethical Dimensions of Victimhood

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.215-224. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 755.517KB).

Prof. Elizabeth Fifer

Professor, English Department, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA

Professor Elizabeth Fifer is the author of a book on Gertrude Stein, “Rescued Readings: A Reconstruction of Gertrude Stein’s Difficult Works”, and many essays on contemporary American and world literature. She has taught contemporary American multicultural literature and world literature at Lehigh University since 1973.


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