The two main characters in ‘night, Mother are Jessie Cates and her mother Thelma, whom Jesse calls “Mama.” Jesse is middle-aged and lives with Mama, taking care of all the details of her mother’s life. They live in a small house on a lonely country road, and the onstage action occurs in the living room and kitchen area. At the beginning of the play, Jesse matter-of-factly tells her mother that she is going to kill herself that night.
After she announces this, she begins preparing to commit suicide, including gathering old towels to minimize the mess and writing lists of things that need to be tended to after she is gone. At first Mama refuses to believe her, but as the drama progresses, Mama realizes Jessie does intend to shoot herself and tries to talk her daughter out of it.
We learn that Jesse has epilepsy. This means she cannot keep a steady job and must have someone around at all times. She is divorced after being married to a man who never loved her. Her son from the marriage is a small-time thief and general "loser." Jesse has had severe depression for a long time.
Jesse sees her life as stagnant, with no hope of ever changing. There is little in her life that she can control, but she can certainly control her death. The play ends as she goes into her bedroom and locks the door. A moment later, we hear the sound of a gunshot.