Critical Context (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series)
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds captured all the major drama awards in 1970: the Obie for best play, the New York Drama Critics’ Award for the best play, the Vernon Rice Drama Desk Award for most promising playwright, and the 1971 Pulitzer Prize. The play hearkens back, in both tone and subject matter, to the earlier domestic dramas of Tennessee Williams and William Inge in the 1940’s, and the character of Beatrice is reminiscent of Williams’ older female characters.
This play was the first, and most successful, of three that Paul Zindel mounted in the early 1970’s and prefigured a succession of novels for young readers that combined his hallmark traits of humor, pathos, poetry, and terror. In all cases, Zindel attempted to elevate everyday life into something more noble by giving some of his characters a form of personal realization and epiphany. As a result of their new understanding, his characters are able to cope with life, their parents, or their peers and still keep their self-respect. This message is a vital one for young people who need that example and encouragement.