The opening scene of The Killdeer takes place in Mrs. Gardner’s cottage, where Madam Fay is selling cosmetics to a reluctant Mrs. Gardner. As part of her sales pitch, Madam Fay casually relates the story of her scandalous past. She recounts the ghastly murders and suicide in which her family and Rebecca Lorimer, the egg-girl, have been involved. The audience learns that Madam Fay’s son, Eli, a nineteen-year-old child-man, hates his mother. He was left on the farm when Madam Fay deserted her family and ran off with her adopted sister’s husband to Buffalo for a weekend. Madam Fay’s husband, Gilbert, prodded by the resentful hired man, Clifford Hopkins (who had an affair with Madam Fay), went to the Lorimer home and shot Lorimer’s wife and two sons and then killed himself. Rebecca was the only one in that family to escape the slaughter; she stayed on the family farm and turned it into a successful venture. Eli, feeling abandoned and lost, attached himself to Clifford, who dominated him and encouraged his childlike dependency. Lorimer, Rebecca’s father, was placed in a mental institution in London, Ontario. Madam Fay’s spellbinding story holds Mrs. Gardner, who, to hear more of the melodramatic tale, buys some cosmetics.
When Madam Fay leaves, Mrs. Gardner’s son, Harry, a bank clerk, comes to tell his mother that he cannot have supper with her because Mr. Coons, his employer, has invited him to his home for dinner. During this exchange, Harry’s dislike of his mother’s cluttered parlor, her condescending tone, and her domineering manner is evident—as is his acquiescence to her every wish. Mrs. Gardner immediately envisions a marriage between Mr. Coons’s daughter Vernelle and Harry.
In the third scene, the comic element of the play surfaces as two gossips, Mrs. Gardner and Mrs. Budge, discuss Madam Fay and her sordid past. Rebecca enters, bringing surprising news: She is going to be married to Eli the next day, a marriage arranged by Clifford....
(The entire section is 816 words.)