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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 266

The play lists the characters as follows: Curly McClain, Aunt Eller Murphy, Laurey Williams, Jeeter Fry, Ado Anne Carnes, A Pedlar, Cord Elam, Old Man Peck, and others of the countryside. The main characters, however, are the cowboy Curly McClain; Curley's love interest, Laurey; Laurey's Aunt Ella who raised her; and Laurey's other love interest—the farm hand, Jeeter.

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The play opens with Curly, described as "tall, waggish, curly-headed young cowboy in a ten gallon hat," riding through a town singing a song. Aunt Ella, in her fifties, hears him, recognizes him, and invites him up to her house. As they chat, Curly presents himself as a laid back happy-go-lucky individual. He says he has just come over to invite Ella's niece, Laurey, to a party. Unfortunately, Curly quickly finds out that the "fair, spoiled, lovely young girl of about 18" is interested in the "bullet coloured" 35 year old hired hand named Jeeter.

Jeeter, however, quickly shows himself to be a brute. When he finally escorts Laurey to the party, she no longer feels safe being around him, and she runs to Curly for protection, saying

[Jeeter] Tried to kiss me - wouldn't let me out of here. Said he'd tried to see me all by myself fer months. He talked wild- and he threatened me.

Taking his opportunity, Curly proposes marriage to her on the spot, and she accepts. Jeeter, however, is furious and goes out of his way to seek revenge. On Curly and Laurey's wedding night, he tries to kill them by setting fire to a hay stack that the couple are sitting on.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 745

Curly McClain

Curly McClain, a footloose, ballad-singing cowboy. When he stops by Laurey’s farm to ask her to a “play-party” and she refuses, he asks Aunt Eller to go with him, singing the title song about a rejected lover abandoning the green lilacs for the “red, white, and blue” of a soldier’s life. When he notices the handyman Jeeter’s unhealthy interest in Laurey, Curly warns Jeeter off by besting him in a gun duel. At the party, when Laurey turns to him for comfort after she has fired Jeeter, he proposes marriage. After Jeeter’s accidental death while he is trying to kill Curly and Laurey, Curly is taken from his wedding celebration and held for trial, even though the crowd agrees that Jeeter provoked the fight with Curly that led to his death. Curly escapes jail for one night to go to Laurey and reassure her. He admits that as a cowboy he had few responsibilities, but his marriage to Laurey and the subsequent running of a farm will help him become a responsible citizen worthy of a new state.

Laurey Williams

Laurey Williams, a young farm owner romantic enough to dream about exotic adventures but reluctant to admit her love for Curly. Despite Curly’s promise of a fancy surrey, Laurey refuses to attend the “play-party” with him, accepting Jeeter’s offer instead, despite her fears that the handyman has set a neighbor’s house on fire as revenge for being denied food. Although Aunt Eller prefers Curly as a suitor, she admits that the farm needs a handyman. When Jeeter accosts Laurey at the party, she fires him. When Laurey turns to Curly for comfort, they admit their mutual love, and Curly proposes marriage. After the wedding and disrupted gathering afterward, Laurey locks herself in her room and refuses to eat.

Aunt Eller Murphy

Aunt Eller Murphy, a fiftyish widowed aunt of Laurey who has acted as guardian for her orphaned niece. A practical woman, she encourages Curly’s pursuit of Laurey. After the wedding and tragedy, when Curly is taken away to jail to await trial, Aunt Eller assures Laurey that he is innocent and reminds the girl that a woman’s lot in a new land is a hard one by recounting her own life’s...

(The entire section contains 1011 words.)

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