Themes and Meanings

The Oldest Living Graduate is a play about the effects of time: the change it brings and the way the past intrudes into the present. Even the plot’s father-son conflict is related to this theme. Floyd wants to turn his back on the past, to transform the land where he lives. This desire stems largely from his need to avenge a past that he cannot escape. Always he has been measured against his elder brother, who is forever secure from failure because he is dead and consequently never to be equaled. Floyd is begging for his father to recognize his younger son in Floyd’s own right, not in comparison to the dead brother. At the same time, Floyd is trying to assert his real role as the family’s benefactor, preferably by having Colonel Kinkaid acknowledge that he has been the one to hold their properties together for seventeen years, but if necessary by certifying that the old man is senile and incompetent. It is thus important to the colonel’s own character development that he presents the Genet farm to Floyd without knowing that it is no longer his to give away.

Few of the colonel’s memories are romantic ones. He does reminisce with gusto about his career with General John Pershing in the Philippines and especially in Mexico. None of these military exploits performed in the grand old style, however, had prepared him for the realities of trench warfare in France. That experience broke the colonel’s spirit, leaving him a shell of a man....

(The entire section is 448 words.)