Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Lanford Wilson's play, The Rimers of Eldritch, centers around the residents of the titular town, Eldritch, Missouri. It was once a prosperous coal mining community, but is now a decaying Bible Belt town. Most of the population of Eldritch clings to the notion of this glorious past, and rejects anything belonging to the present that is deemed not up to the standard. As such, disabled people, people deemed to be amoral, etc. are excluded and sometimes even shunned from the community.
The driving force of the story revolves around Skelly Mannor, a man falsely accused of rape by a woman named Nelly Windrod. Skelly was in fact attempting to stop the real rapist from going through with the act. However, because of the attitude of the townspeople—one of extreme Puritan thought and harsh policing—Skelly is killed for his alleged crime. The play then aims to portray the mentality of the people in the town through various characters in order for the audience to understand, essentially, what led to Skelly's death.
We therefore meet Robert and Eva, a pair of young lovers, and learn that Eva has been ostracised by the town for most of her life because of her disability. We also meet Eva's mother, Evelyn Jackson, and her single-minded Christian faith; Cora Groves, who reveals the identity of Skelly's murderer and gets shunned by the rest of the town for what is perceived to be an act of betrayal against the community; Patsy Johnson, a teenage girl who gets whipped by her father for becoming pregnant at the age of sixteen; and we see the gossiping nature of Martha Truit and Wilma Atkins.
Through these characters and other minor ones, Wilson therefore portrays a classic story of small town persecution. The only reason Skelly is so easily painted as the rapist is because he has always been reclusive, which is in stark contrast with the mob-like, insular nature of the rest of the town. In the end, it may even be said that the real murderers were in fact all of the townspeople themselves.