What is the plot of the play Soul Gone Home?

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belarafon | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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"Soul Gone Home" is a one-act play by Langston Hughes.

The play concerns a young boy who has just died, and his mother, who grieves for him. In the course of the play, the son returns in spirit to chastise his mother for her mistakes in raising him. As they argue, the son claims that they family was so poor that he starved to death, but since his mother was too prideful to admit that they were poor, she caused his death by not making enough money "hustling" on the streets. For her part, the mother becomes belligerent, telling the son:

MOTHER: ...Now, just when you get big enough to work and do me some good, you have to go and die.
SON: I sure am dead!
MOTHER: But you ain't decent dead! Here come come back to haunt your poor old mama, and spoil her cryin' spell, and spoil the mournin'.
(Hughes, "Soul Gone Home," Google Books)

Both are grieving, but neither wants to take responsibility for the death. The mother believes her mourning to be of top priority, since she raised the son and received nothing in return, and the son believes that she should have done more to feed him and keep him alive.

At the end of the play, undertakers remove the boy's body and the mother prepares to go back out on the streets, promising to buy flowers for his grave if she makes enough money.