The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia Themes

Preston Jones

Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia has a bald, insistent theme: An organization rooted in past traditions, unable to adjust to change, can only degenerate and die. From their peak in 1939, marked by a convention in Tulsa, the Knights of the White Magnolia have been reduced to a ragtag remnant. With the exception of Colonel Kinkaid, the members are a sorry bunch of “good old boys,” petty, mean-spirited, and ignorant. All are in some measure failures, clinging to an old lie because it offers them a barren dignity that in other circumstances would be merely pathetic but, because it is bigotry, is too vicious to engage much audience sympathy. These are men sorely lacking in human decency.

The worst of what they are is apparent in their arrogant treatment of Ramsey-Eyes, the amiable, obliging custodian who takes their abuse with admirable equanimity. The accommodation that once characterized race relations in the South, still evident in Colonel Kinkaid’s kinder treatment, has given way to the feckless invective of Red Grover, who perceives Ramsey-Eyes as nearly subhuman. Colonel Kinkaid, his values and much of his mental growth arrested in World War I, views Ramsey-Eyes as a “good soldier.” It is Ramsey-Eyes, not one of the lodge members, to whom the Colonel has entrusted the lodge’s book.

The older values of the Colonel are a luxury affordable only to Bradleyville’s elite citizens, those, like Floyd, who...

(The entire section is 466 words.)