Generational Conflicts and Constructs of Families

Through “King Lear” generational conflict is a constant theme within the story. Old vs. Young and New ruling vs. Old ruling are common among Lear and his daughter and Gloucester and Edmund; and between the interactions between these characters, it becomes apparent how much value today’s society has placed on the concept of families and what they mean.

The younger rises when the old doth fall”

“King Lear” Act III.IV.25

 I feel this line is strong as I feel the harsh and plotted tone that it can be read in reveals how Edmund wants more power than he was ‘given’. Now that he knows he is considered the rightful heir to his father he wants that power immediately, and by selling out his father and pledging his allegiance else where it shows how he not only rejects the concept of a family but also how he will not stop until he gets the power he craves. The ease with which Edmund sells out his father is something that would intrigue many. Family in our society as I have mentioned is a construct. However, it’s a construct that we place a great deal of importance on. Many people view family as a lifeline of sorts, the people who are supposed to stand by you without question and support the choices you make. A lot of people see family as a permanent fixture in our lives and not as people who are disposable. Edmund has no attachment to his family in the sense that he views his family as a roadblock to power and gaining what he wants, rather than a tool to help him and loyalty that shouldn’t be broken. I believe the differences in attachment to family in our society and society within the play are why some are scandalized to see family as an arbitrary concept as portrayed in “King Lear.

I feel the way family is viewed within “King Lear” adds to the generational conflict as it appears younger characters feel as if they owe their parents nothing; while older characters believe their children should be in debt to them as they brought them up and gave them the power they now have access to.

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