The most complex treatment of Wilson’s themes appears in The Mound Builders, probably his most impressive achievement. The action occurs in “the mind’s eye” of Professor August Howe, who recalls an archeological dig he led the preceding summer in southern Illinois that unearthed an ancient burial ground of the Temple Mound People. Howe(accompanied by his wife, Cynthia, and their daughter) and his young assistant Dan Loggins (accompanied by his pregnant wife, Jean) come into conflict with the owner of the property and his twenty-five-year-old son, Chad, who hope to make a great deal of money by selling the land for a vacation resort.
Chad, who is carrying on an affair with Cynthia Howe, had saved Dan from drowning the summer before but now tries unsuccessfully to lure Jean away from him. Thwarted both personally in his desire for Jean and financially because laws prevent developing the property, Chad eventually kills Dan, bulldozes the excavation, and kills himself, leaving the god-king mask to be reburied by the mythic flood waters.
Wilson’s dramaturgy in this memory play approximates that of Williams in The Glass Menagerie. The playing area might be seen as August’s mind, with the slides of the precious artifacts that are projected onto the back wall prompting his remembrances. The central conflict is between the preservation of a culture, on one hand, and commercial progress on the other; between a past age of...
(The entire section is 457 words.)