In The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, what effect does Ruth's second convulsion have on her?

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigoldsends shortly after Ruth's second convulsion. Beatrice tells Tillie that she hates the world and Tillie ends the play with a hopeful speech about how we are all made of stardust, of "places beyond our dreams." Ruth never speaks another word in the play, so we can only speculate what effect this additional convulsion has on her. By this point in her life, these episodes seem typical to all three, so there may not be any singular significance about this episode for Ruth herself. One the other hand, the death of the rabbit is traumatic and this could have affected Ruth in ways we don't know, such as being symbolic of killing her spirit. For Beatrice, this second convulsion is just another reminder of the deplorable state of her life. For Tillie, it is another frustrating effect of Beatrice's insularity.

As long as the seizures continue to be triggered by Beatrice's mistreatment of Ruth and the strange nightmares caused by living in a makeshift convalescent home, there is no end in sight for Beatrice's radioactive effect on Ruth. It is another event in the continuing chain reaction of a bitter relationship.

Tillie describes the positive potential of atomic energy in Act I, and this is analogous to her hopes for a personal transformation to something new:

In front of my eyes, one part of the world was becoming another. Atoms exploding, flinging off tiny bullets that caused the fountain, atom after atom breaking down into something new.

Key words are "new" and "fountain" which is alive, flowing and regenerating. The opposite is happening with Ruth. Her continuing reactions (seizures) are part of an ongoing decay and part of repeating the conditions for that decay.

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