Shepard's intention was to create a narrative that communicated and reflected the frustrations of American people, but at the same time was engaging and entertaining. Set in a context which is easily recognizable, the American farming family, and centered around issues which are universal, the disillusionment with the American dream and the traditional patriarch, Buried Child reflects the frustrations of American people. The postmodern style that Shepard uses incorporates surrealism and symbolism in the realistic framework of a family drama. This platform allows for engaging visceral theatre. Shepard is able to create images in the imaginations of people through the use of surrealism and symbolism, evoke and harness the experiences of his audience through its postmodern nature, and keep the audience comfortable in the trappings of realism.
Some critics consider it part of a Family Trilogy which includes Curse of the Starving Class (1976) and True West (1980). Others consider it part of a quintet which includes Fool for Love (1983) and A Lie of the Mind (1985).
Buried Child incorporates many postmodern elements such as the mixing of genres, the deconstruction of a grand narrative, and the use of pastiche and layering.
Mixing of genres
Buried Child is laid in the framework of realism; the play is essentially a family drama. However, added into the realistic framework are distinct elements of surrealism and symbolism. The three-act structure, the immediate time frame and the setting of the play in reality give it an overall realistic appearance. Yet the use of symbols such as the corn and the rain give the play a symbolist element while the fragmented characterisation and actions like the multiple burials of Dodge are somewhat surreal or dreamlike. The humour is also an essential element of the style, giving the play sardonic, black and even at times slapstick elements. All these stylistic elements combine to give the play an overall postmodern feel.