Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518

Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander is a play about the power of environment in determining one’s life choices and the cumulative effect of seemingly small choices on the rest of one’s life. Preston Jones wrote of his fascination with the meaning of time in human life: “But whatever the story is, for me it would always involve ’time’ because time is not the sun going up and down every day. It is not a clock. It is not a calendar. Time is an eroding, infinite mystery. Time is, in fact, a son-of-a-bitch.” By focusing on three days over twenty years in the life of Lu Ann, Jones demonstrates that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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In 1953, the time of act 1, Lu Ann’s mother is supporting her son and daughter. Lu Ann is a perky cheerleader dating a basketball star and apparently has an open future ahead. However, she has no plans except vaguely negative ones. She does not want to live in Bradleyville, and she does not want to work where her mother works. She likes nice cars. Skip’s entrance with his army buddy, Dale Laverty, right after her quarrel with Billy Bob sets her future. Because Dale has a car and a name she thinks is “cute,” she leaves town with him instead of going to the senior picnic with Billy Bob. Lu Ann’s brother Skip has already determined his future. He tells Dale that he turned down a chance to be co-owner of a Western Auto store because he has bigger, if vague, plans. He already drinks too much.

Act 2 shows the audience Lu Ann in 1963. “The years have hardened her prettiness into a tough, smooth gloss.” Trapped back in her mother’s house in Bradleyville by the early marriage, pregnancy, and divorce, she has one more opportunity. Again, it is less a free choice than a conditioned one. She likes Corky Oberlander’s name and his new Chevrolet Impala.

In act 3, life has come full circle. If Lu Ann’s second marriage could have made a difference in her destiny, fate prevented it when Corky was killed in an accident. Like her mother before her, Lu Ann works at an ordinary job and supports those dependent on her. In the last act she tells her brother Skip not to dwell on the “bad old days” and practices what she preaches when she puts thoughts of what might have been with Billy Bob behind her. Uneducated and not very articulate, she lives a life with which many people can identify and meets it with a kind of courage. Her mother is a flower, not a vegetable. And if for Skip, “all that stands between a man and the looney bin is his sister’s tab down to the Dixie Dinette,” she does stand between him and that fate. The author seems to suggest that, hemmed in by life and circumscribed by circumstance, Lu Ann has at least, like Samuel Beckett’s protagonists in En attendant Godot(pb. 1952, pr. 1953; Waiting for Godot, 1954), kept her appointment. She has survived.

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