Green Grow the Lilacs

by Lynn Riggs

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Green Grow the Lilacs is a stage play by Lynn Riggs, which would later be adapted as the musical Oklahoma! The play has multiple themes, but the most dominant theme is the hardships of working-class people in rural Oklahoma, which was still Indian Territory in the play's setting.

Despite having a theme of romantic love, the theme of social documentary and musical ethnography are still the most prominent themes. Regarding the former, the play articulates the perspective of women in rural Oklahoma. The difficulties of living in an economically-deprived agrarian community is illustrated by the women's lamentations that hardship has robbed them of their health and youth. In this regard, the commentary in the play is similar to the works of John Steinbeck, who wrote about Oklahoma migrants working California's Central Valley during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression.

The ethnographic elements of the play include linguistic nuances found in rural Oklahoma during the early twentieth century, the practice of local marriage traditions, as well as cowboy and folk ballads. The story between the main characters itself explores the theme of justice, which is viewed by the characters as double-layered: the justice system of the government and the concept of righteousness, or divine justice.

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