Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Mound Builders is a play about the need of human beings to lead meaningful lives and to discover sustaining values: to identify themselves with something of significance and permanence amid the constant change inherent in existence. The characters in the play attach meaning and significance to the vagaries of ordinary existence but eventually have the truly consequential thrust upon them in the inevitable clash of values and desires.

Through not so much a series of events as a series of apparently spontaneous conversations, Lanford Wilson underscores the folly of the myth of self-importance, showing men and women who delude themselves in order to maintain an aura of importance, respectability, and humanity. Humankind builds—things, relationships, works of art, lives—because it is only happy when building something. Wilson shows that within the builder is also the destroyer. The roundhouse was built over a burial mound of an earlier culture. Chad Jasker and his father want to build over the roundhouse.

The archaeologists who dig in the earth for evidence of vanished cultures, the engineers constructing interstate highways and erecting a dam, the planners and builders of Holiday Inn hotels, the farmers plowing new lands for planting—all are destroying what was on the land before they began. Similarly, the desires of the various builders and destroyers inevitably collide. Chad Jasker’s father plowed under burial mounds in his...

(The entire section is 551 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Among its other themes, The Mound Builders is an examination of betrayal. All of the adult characters gathered...

(The entire section is 1042 words.)