In stand adversity, but if you want
In the play, Top dog/Underdog by Lori parks Lincoln is the elder brother and Booth is the younger brother both needle each other about who is more of a man. As Abraham Lincoln says, “Nearly all can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man character’s, give him power”(Abraham Lincoln). Different people hold different attitudes towards power. Some of us think power will harm people; some people may prefer to be in power because it represents manhood and character. However, the real question comes out in the whole play, Top dog/Underdog, is who is the Top dog? Who is the Underdog? As far as I am concerned, they are both top dogs in their own perspectives. Lincoln the elder brother, who works at the arcade as an ‘Abraham Lincoln’ impersonator supports himself for many years by playing 3- card monte.
Lincoln uses 3-card monte con game as his enticement to show off that he is more of man though he quit 3-card monte after his friend got shot and Lincoln vows to earn an honest living. Booth who is the younger one also portrays himself as the top dog by carrying a gun, stealing and learning three-card monte con game. He always tries to put down his brother, but Lincoln was a former hustler and always ahead of his brother.
Soon Booth realized that Lincoln was a former street hustler and a skilled player in 3-card. Booth the younger brother had a thought of joining up together and make some quick cash. He tries to pursue Lincoln to go back to playing 3-card rather than working at the arcade and get shot by people.
but Lincoln withdraws his offer because he thought he would die like his friend. “the black play got a message” (SP 580) regarding the final tragic scene as Lincoln predicted early in the play. Lincoln doesn’t want to get involved in this con game because he believes that people die playing con games. Booth and Lincoln are brothers who are living together after Lincoln was kicked out by his wife Cookie. Both brothers were left alone by their parents at a very young age, and they split their ways to go after their dreams. Lincoln currently works as a Lincoln impersonator, dying every day in the reenactment of Abraham Lincolns death.
Lincoln is also required to wear white face due to him being black, which would help him portray Abraham Lincoln character more precisely. He is also the sole bread earner in the house, and booth is happy to spend Lincoln Paycheck as he pleases. Even though Booth considers his job is tedious and not manly and no one considers that he is “real deal”, certainly he ended up learning 3-card monte like his brother, which he thinks was real man job. Prior to this job, Lincoln was a successful street hustler in 3-card monte until the death of his friend persuaded him to leave this job. However, Booth was keen to persuade Lincoln to quit his job and start playing 3-cards again. He also names himself 3-card and wants everyone to call him 3-card otherwise they would get a bullet booth said! Because he was certain if both brothers team up they would make a lot of money. Lincoln 3-cards skills and booth being his “Stickman.” Lincoln didn’t want to be his partner and Booth burst out “Dressing up like some cracker ass white man, some dead president and letting people shoot at you sounds like a hustle to me” (SP, 26).
This indicates that Booth thinks, Lincoln believe in the idea of self-individualism over family. Though, Lincoln understood his identity from a social viewpoint. Because some of you may say, Lincoln doesn’t want to play 3-card game and to subject his masculinity to a white face.
The fact that Lincoln is changing his identity to a more of an honest man and now it is difficult for him to understand the societal view of manhood because society says that a man should provide for his family. Though, he does it in a way in which he is losing his identity. Booth is persuaded to the point where he declares that Lincoln is a traitor and “Less of man.” (SP 57) His job is to get shot while booth wants to shoot people. Booth the underdog is convinced of himself that 3-card is the only way to make money. Following Lincoln footsteps, booth earns all his money by cheating people on the streets and stealing items. The house belongs to Booth, so Lincoln must pay the rent to Booth. Because of that Booth adopt a more dominating role inside the house, making it seems as Booth is the top dog between the two brothers.
The way Booth talks to Lincoln in terms of paying rent and splitting the bills, look as if Lincoln is less masculine in this situation giving booth the upper hand within the house. However, he was the only earner in the family “Thursday, tells ‘are lucky I let stay ‘and, is welcome ‘come home with your paycheck'” (MA 91). The way both brothers prioritize money indicates that money is more important than family because booth doesn’t have a formal job, most of us would see him less masculine.
Though, he portrays himself as the top dog, because of the apartment. The idea of masculinity changes in the play when Lincoln rejoins the life of three cards and plays against his brother and Booth loses his 500 $ inheritance to Lincoln. This defines the idea of how Lincoln never cedes his positions of being the top dog in the play. One may argue that a man should never test masculinity against his family because it reduces the masculinity of his character. However, Lincoln didn’t want to test his masculinity against his family but Booth force him to do it. In the play sex and women are also a challenge of masculinity compared to the 3-card game, which proves the idea of who is the top dog and who is the underdog. Lincoln never cedes his positions of being the top dog by rejoining the 3-card game, and Booth is also trying to be the top dog by trying to learn the game. Manhood is also challenged in the light of sex and women.
Both characters analyze the values and ideas of sex and women. Before Lincoln moved to his brother apartment, he was married to cookie and they were living together until Cookie kicked him out of her house because they were cheating on each other and their marriage ended. Booth also revealed that she slept with him because you didn’t know how to make your women happy.
Booth would mock him because his “wife dumped him because he couldn’t get it up” (SP 50). One may argue that Lincolns wife cheated on him, I feel a sense of regret for Lincoln because he understood his errors of being an unfaithful husband, which led him to the situations where his wife ends up sleeping with his brother. Similarly, Booth is making himself seem “manlier” by expressing his sexual desire with Lincolns wife and pertained Lincoln a limp dick motherfucker wo couldn’t get it up for his wife. Also, Booth equates his masculinity by subordinating to other individuals such as grace his girlfriend is another way in which Booth abuses his idea of masculinity “she let me do her how I wanted” (SP 45) She is not a spouse. However, she is a sexual figure that booth believes he can exploit in whatever way he wanted. In comparison to Lincoln wife, Booths seems that women are just an object, whose goal is to feed his sexual desire.
Likewise, to add to this theory of Booth sexuality is a primary factor of his masculinity. Booth wants that everyone should respect him. Lincoln also revealed at the end “like 100” magazines under Booth bed containing sexual content.
Though, it shows, that sexual pleasure had a large role in Booths life. He masturbates very often; a lot of pornographic magazines are under his bed. Not to mention at the end of the play, he pulls out his gun and shoots his girlfriend because she forces booth to face the reality of life. However, the final tragic scene of the play is where Booth pulls out his gun and shoots Lincoln at the back of his head, which raises the question of who is more of a man in between these two characters.
Lincoln is a character who’s earning money in an honest way and who puts food on the table every night. But Booth portrays him the Underdog “although Booth mimic the obligatory swagger and braggadocio of urban street tough calming that he is ‘thuh man’ ‘thuh champ’ and that Lincoln is ‘scared’ that his younger would upstage him as a card shark” (LD 93). He stops playing 3-card game. Booth on the other hand doesn’t work stay home and trying to con people with his gun and steal stuff from the stores, he tries to portray Lincoln less of man every chance he gets, but Lincoln who was a former street hustler and can’t be less of a man. But the question is that Does killing Lincoln helped Booth? The answer is no, he would go to jail for his double homicide, no one would praise him for his acrimonious acts against his brother and his girlfriend. Booths anger problems and extensive insecurities, of not having a steady job and stealing clothes from the stores and inability to con people as good his older brother Lincoln leads him killing of his brother. However, there was no insecurity left after he killed his brother, one may say he was over with his insecurities after killing his brother.
But this was an act of stupidity he would think later, everything he did was demeaning. Nothing would be the same later in his life. However, Lincoln was his older brother and he was responsible for these acts because he should have helped him solve those insecurities implicitly as a family, rather “they stop being brothers and turned in to live male animals” (45:00). Lincolns winning the game and Booth losing the game was like burning him alive, because Booth lost his inheritance, which he considered was an important thing in his life from his mother. The author wants us to understand the meaning of life and family which is very important in our lives, it should be kept secretly. Inconclusion, the cost of such desire was brutal and demeaning between the brothers that who is more of a man.
They chose power over family, which lead them to a tragic scene at the end of the play. Both characters realized the meaning of family in their own lives, after Booth killed his girl friend and his brother and Lincoln lost his life and wife. However, Suzan Lori parks play Top dog/Underdog teaches us a lesson about life experiences of two black character who picks the wrong paths. Certainly, it ended with a bad moral.