Paul Zindel's play "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in the Moon Marigolds" explores the dynamics of a family made of four generations of females, each with their own dilemmas, fears, and pressures.
Although the women are family and, we suppose, love each other it is clear that the atmosphere in the home is highly dysfunctional and that this particular family unit has had a history with insanity that may be lying deeply-rooted in the psyche of the characters:
Alienation in this play is best described if you compare it to isolation. The issues of each of the women isolates them from one another. For example, Beatrice, the mother of Ruth and Tillie is a woman with a myriad of unfinished businesses in life. She is also an abandoned wife. Hence, she works alone trying to deal with her mourning. However she cannot connect with her daughters; Every conversation turns into an argument.
Ruth is an antagonistic teenager who is focused on her looks and, as a result, won't go to school without make-up. She is epileptic, and feels guilt for her dad abandoning her mom. She is a self-proclaimed anti-social until her little sister, Tillie, is nominated for the Science fair. She is the person who primary argues the most with her mom.
Tillie is also an outcast because she is a gifted girl. She is extremely smart and the name of her upcoming science project is what inspires the title of the story. Tillie is more of a mediator. She is loved by all. She can probably fix the relationship, but has not been successful. It is the hope placed in her project , and the sudden break with negativity that this project brought into the household what shows that there may be salvation in the horizon for these women.