The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Dwight Deacon looks forward to capping his day as a dentist and justice of the peace by sitting down to a family meal cooked by his wife’s sister Lulu, a spinster who drudges for his family to earn her keep. However, his spoiled younger daughter Monona has been snitching cookies and refuses the creamed salmon. Lulu is asked to prepare milk toast for Monona, is reprimanded for buying a pink tulip in a pot for the center of the table, and is squelched when she tries to answer Dwight’s question about the price of canned salmon. The crotchety Mrs. Bett, mother of Lulu and Dwight’s wife Ina, has to be coaxed to the table. Elder daughter Di finally arrives, accompanied by Mr. Cornish, with whom she is flirting at the expense of her infatuated schoolmate Bobby. The tongue-tied Cornish clumsily tries to express his respect for Lulu, but every compliment misfires. Dwight announces that next week will bring a visit from Ninian, a brother he has not seen in twenty years.

A week later, Lulu is making apple pies and Ninian engages her in conversation. He sees how shabbily the others treat her. Lulu’s responses show both a quick wit and feelings of inferiority. Ninian invites her out to dinner and a show that evening. Dwight and Ina agree to come along. As the family gathers, Ninian jokingly passes the time by reciting marriage vows and Lulu plays along. It dawns on them that since Dwight is a justice of the peace, they are now legally married. Ninian proposes that he and Lulu depart for Savannah together right after the theater.

Act 2 is set on the Deacons’ side porch a month later. Dwight and Ina are manipulated by their daughters, whose behavior has become...

(The entire section is 687 words.)