Douglas Turner Ward Catharine R. Hughes - Essay

Catharine R. Hughes

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The curious thing about The Reckoning] is that what is at best a mediocre one-act play should have attracted so much attention in the first place. While leaving it to the sociologists to ponder, it does seem a rather obvious reflection of the sort of paternalism and over-solicitude that continues to afflict white America's attitude toward black art. (p. 14)

That there is nothing in the least original about The Reckoning goes almost without saying. From his 'night-time nigger' Scar, to his elegant demagogue of a Governor, voicing his sonorous platitudes and his scorn, his lengthy set speeches and his vitriol, and the two obsequious servants who decide the time to turn the other cheek is past, the characters are readily recognisable caricatures and stereotypes. Which would not necessarily be a drawback in a play which is, after all, essentially an allegory. But Mr Ward … has gotten too caught up in his cascading metaphors, turning loose a repetitious avalanche of images and epithets, sound and fury, which, if it does not end up signifying nothing, does end up saying nothing that has not been said before—and said considerably better, not merely by others but by Mr Ward himself. (pp. 14-15)

Catharine R. Hughes, "New York" (© copyright Catharine R. Hughes 1969; reprinted with permission), in Plays and Players, Vol. 17, No. 2, November, 1969, pp. 14-15.∗