Themes and Meanings

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The Rimers of Eldritch is a play about the moral corruption at the core of an American small town that has lost its economic vitality. The old people, the marginally employable, and the few loyal families who have remained have become insular, even viciously so, because they have refused to relinquish a long-gone “glorious” past. So strong is the draw of the past—memories of full shops and bustling streets while the coal mine operated, and of Driver’s more recent stock-car victories—that the town is unable to deal constructively with its present condition. Instead, it insists that unwelcome reminders of the present—the mentally deficient, physically handicapped, and morally ambivalent—should remain hidden from view or risk violent expulsion.

The rime, or hoarfrost, that Eva loves so well is symbolic of the town’s double-edged attractiveness. Its values, rooted in an absolute belief in the law and religion (the judge and pastor are played by the same actor), make the town glisten in pristine righteousness. More than once Martha and Wilma claim that they are not judging the actions of others, but clearly that is not the case. The candy coating of the rime covers a meanness of spirit in the town; the underside of its all-American values is a corruption that leads to violence. The townspeople agree that they must take collective responsibility for this violence, but they continue to ignore its causes.

The difficulty some of the characters encounter in...

(The entire section is 612 words.)