The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Jumpers begins with a party given by Dorothy Moore (Dotty), a retired music-hall singer. At this party, Dotty attempts to sing several sentimental songs, all of which include the word “moon”; it becomes clear, however, that she is suffering from a mental breakdown. The Jumpers, a troupe of rather mediocre acrobats, upstage her confused performance with a demonstration of gymnastics. As they pose in a human pyramid, the Jumper at the bottom of the heap is suddenly shot and killed by an unknown murderer. Though it is unclear whether she had a part in the murder, Dotty is left holding the dead body.

George Moore, Dotty’s husband, is now shown dictating to his secretary a lecture for a philosophical symposium titled “Man—Good, Bad or Indifferent?” George, a middle-aged professor of moral philosophy, launches into a long and rambling monologue expressing his doubts about the course of philosophy and telling of his own desire to find a moral absolute, to prove rationally the existence of God. Logical positivists, who are moral relativists, dominate the philosophy department; their position is represented by the Jumpers who performed earlier, philosophy professors who double as acrobats. George, unfortunately, does not “jump”; his insistence on standards of good and evil is at odds with the current philosophical tide. Consequently, he has not been promoted.

George’s musings are interrupted by Dotty’s cries for help. Annoyed at the disturbance, he confronts her in the bedroom. The ensuing exchange makes it clear that their marriage has deteriorated. George suspects Dotty of having an affair with Archie, the head of his department and a successful logical positivist; Dotty accuses George of neglect and tells him that her mental problems have recurred. These problems, she tries to tell him, stem from her sudden loss of idealism when the first man landed on the moon. For her the moon represented a perfect romantic ideal, attainable only through poetry and music. Her crisis is very much like the philosophical loss of faith in God, the moral absolute. However, George cannot grasp this parallel between her plight and his own trouble with logical positivism. He gives his attention instead to his small pets—a tortoise named Pat, a rabbit named Thumper, and a goldfish—which are missing.

After George leaves to resume dictating his lecture, he is interrupted by the arrival of Inspector Bones, investigating the murder of the Jumper. George, who knows nothing of the murder, assumes that Bones has come in response to a noise complaint that George had called in on the night of the party. Each is mystified by the behavior of the other. Bones is enamored of Dotty, who was formerly one of his favorite singers. Although he believes her to be the murderer, he is more interested in getting an autograph than in questioning her. When summoned, he eagerly goes in to see her, record in hand. When he arrives in...

(The entire section is 1203 words.)