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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Beatrice Hunsdorfer is quite complex, as it is evident in act I of Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds. Her complexity lies upon her penchant for bringing her loved ones into the cycle of self-pity and absurd fantasies that Beatrice creates for herself. 

During this act, Beatrice is seemingly under a drunken stupor when she relates to her daughter, Ruth, a nightmare that she has regarding her father, and her past. This nightmare can be described as a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous. Nevertheless, it is one of Beatrice's many attempts to manipulate the emotions of her family towards her. 

Beatrice's nightmare centers around her father's vegetable wagon. Mr. Frank, Beatrice's father, used to be a vegetable vendor. He had raised Beatrice after her mother's death, but circumstances had brought him to suffer from a mental incapacitation that results in Beatrice having to confine him to an asylum. This is a situation that gnaws at Beatrice's subconscious and is one of the things that contributes to her own personality issues. 

In this nightmare, Beatrice sees a much better looking wagon carried by white horses and plenty of produce available to sell. The color of the wagon is blue, and Beatrice appears in the nightmare wearing quite fashionable clothes, selling the vegetables and fruits. However, there is nobody to sell the produce to, as she is going through a desolate street. Beatrice emphasizes on her fear of seeing the good produce gone to waste, and on her fear of seeing how nobody comes to purchase anything. However, as she looks around the empty street, one of the upper windows begins to open up only to show the face of her father looking down on her. 

This nightmare is an obvious sign of remorse and personal frustration. In it, Beatrice is dressed fancily and riding a fancy wagon, which represents the way in which Beatrice longs to see herself. However, she still admits her humble birth by doing the same thing that her father used to do for a living. The fear of all the good produce going to waste is allegorical to her fear of wasting herself away; of seeing her dreams go nowhere. Having her father look down on her from an upper window represents Beatrice's guilt of having sent her father away. The meaning of his looking "down on her" from the window, is indicative of how lowly she feels that she must have fallen in his eyes after what she had to do. Regardless if Beatrice did the right thing, or not, the fact remains that this incident has left a deep mark in her psyche. 

Moreover, the nightmare also shows Beatrice's conflicting life: while she wants a life of plenty, she can only stick to what she knows. It is no wonder why Beatrice has fallen into a cycle of self-deprecating behavior. Yet, that does not condone the fact that she intends to bring everybody down with her as well. 



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