"Night, Mother", Play by Marsha Norman: The Anticipation of a Dramatic Outcome

Pages: 3 (1400 words) Published: April 23, 2001
Marsha Norman's ‘night, Mother illustrates a central point about the nature of what creates drama in a play: the anticipation of an outcome. In this case, that means that Mama, and the story's audience, learns early on of Jessie's plans. And because of learning Jessie's plans, both Mama and the story's audience are thrust deep into the heart of this story's question: Will Jessie really kill herself, or can Mama find a way to stop her? What's at stake in this story is also made very clear: Jessie's going to kill herself. Can Mama talk her out of it? The central issue that 'night, Mother delivers is that the more reasons Mama tries to grasp to convince Jessie not to kill herself, the more she reaffirms Jessie's belief that her life is useless and it's simply better to end her suffering with a clear mind. The play opens on what appears to be a typical Saturday night for Jessie and Mama. Mama finds the last snowball -- some junk food -- in the fridge, Jessie asks for some black plastic bags. It's on their schedule that Jessie will give Mama a manicure. Then Jessie asks: JESSIE: Where's Daddy's gun? Life for Jessie and Mama is such a dull routine, Mama doesn't even pause to consider the request odd. She evens helps Jessie figure out where the gun is kept. It's not until half a column later that Mama asks: MAMA: What do you want the gun for, Jess? JESSIE: Protection. Mama at first considers that she and Jessie have nothing to steal, and what was valuable was stolen by Jessie's son, Ricky. MAMA: I mean, I don't even want what we got, Jessie. Jessie begins cleaning the gun, and soon the stage directions set out that Mama is now concerned about it. JESSIE: The gun is for me. MAMA: Well, you can have it if you want. When I die, you'll get it anyway. JESSIE: I'm going to kill myself, Mama. At first Mama yells at Jessie for her bad "joke," but Jessie patiently insists she's serious. Mama then insists the gun won't work because the bullets are fifteen years old. Jessie tells...
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