Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Green Pastures provides a deceptively simple chronological summary of the first five chapters of Genesis. Marc Connelly’s intention, on one level, was to demonstrate the importance of the Bible in the lives of rural African Americans. The types of questions that Mr. Deshee’s Sunday school students ask make it clear to the discerning listener that they view the Bible as a practical guide for behavior. Thus, the little boy who wonders how long Adam and Eve were married before the birth of Cain is reflecting his people’s concern for conventional morality. While the sins committed by the people in Mr. Deshee’s narrative—gambling, drinking, murder—are social problems that plague society in general, de Lawd’s concern with them makes it clear that they are especially prevalent in the black community.

By populating the Old Testament with African Americans instead of Hebrews, Connelly was able to make subtle comments on their social status at the same time that he was dramatizing the religious story. Connelly avoided making obvious social protest statements, choosing instead to imply that something is not quite right. For example, Mr. Deshee’s Sunday school class in the very beginning of the play is impressed with the longevity of the central figures of Genesis because their experience dictates that most black people lead harsh, short lives. Connelly also attempted to neutralize the stereotyped notion of African Americans as being...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

The Green Pastures Themes

Sin
A central theme of Connelly’s retelling of the stories of the Old Testament is sin. Ward W. Briggs, Jr., commented in...

(The entire section is 582 words.)