Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander Analysis

Preston Jones

The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander opens in the living room of the Hampton house in Bradleyville, Texas, in 1953. Teenage Lu Ann Hampton runs into the house dressed in her Bradleyville High School cheerleading uniform, followed by boyfriend Billy Bob Wortman. He is dressed in a white shirt, Levi’s, boots, and a Bradleyville High School letter sweater. Billy Bob is a typical small-town boy of the 1950’s, except that today his hair is green. The basketball players decided to startle the school at this morning’s pep rally.

Lu Ann and Billy Bob argue about going to the senior picnic in a pickup truck instead of in his father’s car. In a bit of foreshadowing, Lu Ann tells him that he sounds like a preacher. After he leaves, Claudine Hampton enters to ask about the pep rally. She expresses concern about her son, Skip Hampton, a Korean veteran who spends too much time in Red’s Bar.

They discuss Lu Ann’s plans, or lack of any, for life after graduation. Claudine says that she can get Lu Ann a job at the hospital where Claudine works. Lu Ann wants to get out of town, out of state. They are interrupted by Skip’s entrance with Dale Laverty, an old army buddy. It is apparent that Skip is already an aimless drunk, full of war stories and hot air. As the buddies exit for Red’s Bar, Dale asks Lu Ann if he may call her. Interested in his automobile and angry with Billy Bob, she says yes. At the curtain, she tells herself that Dale Laverty is a pretty name.

Act 2 opens in Red’s Bar. Ten years have passed. Red Grover is watching Rufe Phelps and Olin Potts play checkers and argue, a nightly ritual. The audience learns from their small talk that Skip Hampton got drunk on Thunderbird wine in Red’s the night before and cut his throat with a broken beer bottle. He is in the hospital. They also mention Lu Ann’s divorce. Lu Ann enters, wearing a beautician’s uniform. She says that she could have had her own beauty shop if “that worthless Dale Laverty” had not left her to bring up their daughter, Charmaine, by herself.

Corky Oberlander, a highway inspector, comes in and is introduced to Lu Ann. Their conversation gives the audience the highlights of Lu Ann’s life since graduation. She asks him what kind of car he has. She tells him that she went to her senior picnic in her boyfriend’s father’s...

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Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander might be described as West Texas Chekhov. The big events happen not only offstage but also between the acts: Two marriages, pregnancy and birth, divorce, attempted suicide, a fatal accident, and a stroke occur between the times depicted in acts 1 and 2 and those in 2 and 3. Consequently, the characters primarily give the audience the necessary exposition of events and actions that have led to the present onstage moment. In addition, they reveal their habitual actions through their discussions and arguments about those actions.

Though the action is confined to only two sets, the Hampton living room in acts 1 and 3 and Red’s Bar in act 2, references to people and places not depicted place the characters in the larger context of the town and region. Milo Crawford, the class nerd in 1953, is mentioned in acts 1 and 3 and makes a brief appearance in act 2. Another classmate is mentioned in acts 1 and 3 but never appears. Lu Ann’s mother reminisces about her own dates with that classmate’s father. These references function to bind the three acts together and to reinforce the sameness of the lives of the three generations.

Lu Ann wears a uniform in each act; these uniforms symbolize the stages in her life. In act 1, in her cheerleader’s uniform, she sees her future without realizing it in her mother, who wears a hospital uniform. In act 2, she wears a beautician’s outfit; in act 3, the Howdy Wagon uniform. The repetition of her fondness for “pretty names” and her interest in the kinds of cars her men drive reinforce the definition by labels: automobiles, uniforms, and finally the accretion of names. Lu Ann Hampton becomes Lu Ann Hampton Laverty becomes Lu Ann Hampton Laverty Oberlander. The living room set of acts 1 and 3, with the radio replaced by the television, as an automobile replaces another automobile, as one uniform replaces another, encloses both literally and dramatically the theme of the cumulative effects of the passing of time on a life without inner definition. In the final act, the house encloses all three generations, with the younger version of Lu Ann, her daughter, as uncomprehending of the future represented by her mother and her grandmother as Lu Ann once was of her own.


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

Bennett, Patrick. Talking with Texas Writers: Twelve Interviews. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1980.

Busby, Mark. Preston Jones. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1983.

Jones, Preston. “Author’s Note.” In The Texas Trilogy. New York: Hill & Wang, 1976.

Jones, Preston. “Tales of a Pilgrim’s Progress: From Bradleyville to Broadway.” Dramatists Guild, Winter, 1977, 7-18.

Kerr, Walter. “The Buildup (and Letdown) of Texas Trilogy.” New York Times, October 3, 1976, p. D3, D6.