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Because the play’s drama is centered on Jessie, it is often neglected in reviews and study guides what Thelma will lose from Jessie’s suicide. On the surface the relationship seems to be one of care-taker and invalid – the final acts of Jessie are preparations for Thelma’s comfort (even a plastic sheet to minimize the mess Thelma will have to clean up) – how to order groceries, how the clothes washer and dryer work, etc. Behind the details of those final instructions, however, are clues to their relationship – not warm, and not supportive of Jessie. The peripheral mention of a brother, who will fill in when Jessie is gone, only emphasizes the inadequacies of Thelma as a nurturing mother. So we see that, while Jessie took care of her mother, Thelma did not “take care” of Jessie, and apparently did not “need” Jessie’s love, only her physical help. The bleakness of Jessie’s situation is made clear, then, when we list the “needs” of Thelma, as outlined in Jessie’s final preparations.
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