The Oldest Living Graduate concerns an important week near the end of Colonel J. C. Kinkaid’s life. The audience is immediately introduced to him in the first scene through his exchange (“conversation” is hardly the word) with his daughter-in-law, Maureen Kinkaid, and their neighbor Martha Ann Sickenger. The setting, as it remains throughout the play, is the den of his son’s ranch-style house on the outskirts of Bradleyville, Texas. This dialogue is important not so much for the information it conveys as for the personalities it reveals. The colonel is seventy-five, wheelchair bound, cantankerous, and more than a bit dotty, his mind often moving through a series of associations to the most comical conclusions. However, he still has drive and spunk, along with an indomitable will that he tries to impose on others. Even in his dotage, his insights are often keen. Both likable and irritating, he is by turns admired and merely tolerated by Maureen, whose own personality at times resembles his.
Martha Ann is an empty-headed chatterbox who perpetually annoys Maureen. A few nuggets of information important to the development of the plot do appear among the humorous arguments and misunderstandings that ensue. The audience learns that the colonel was shell-shocked during the trench warfare of World War I; there is also mention of the Genet farm, which is dear to his heart. After he has left to have a look at this property, Martha Ann lets slip that her husband and Floyd Kinkaid, the colonel’s son, hope to capitalize on the farm as part of a lakeside development.
The husbands return, there is more banter revealing the essential barrenness of small-town life, and finally Maureen and Floyd are alone. Wealthy, childless, they have few aims. Maureen realizes that Floyd needs a challenge, but she is taken aback by his callous plans not only to develop his father’s cherished property but also to manipulate to his advantage the fact (it is now revealed) that his father is “the oldest livin’ graduate” of the Mirabeau B. Lamar Military Academy in Galveston. The school is moving to a new location, and its officials have decided to use the occasion to honor Colonel Kinkaid. Since the latter cannot make the trip to Galveston, the...
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