Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 402

Sand Mountain Matchmaking is largely without thematic content. The play is lightly comic throughout, with each character a well-sketched caricature of a mountain type—never condescendingly quaint, but nevertheless heartily and effectively two-dimensional. The phallic ribaldry of the spell that drives away unwanted suitors and attracts the right one continues to function throughout the major scene between Rebecca and Sam, ensuring plenty of laughs but not much thoughtfulness. Rebecca’s independence of spirit is attractive, but the play can hardly be described as a tract for women’s rights. In short, the work exists as light entertainment, without serious thematic pretensions.

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It is an entirely appropriate preparation, however, for the more complex play which is to follow. Precisely by introducing mountain folkways and vocabulary in a lightly comic vein, Romulus Linney warms up his audience for the more challenging material of Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain. Religiously conservative audiences might take offense at a Jesus portrayed convivially drinking brandy, telling tall tales, committing youthful indiscretions, and, ultimately, seeking human forgiveness. Linney prepares his audience by emphasizing the warmth, love, and playfulness of the people he is portraying.

Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain brings the audience to the heart of Linney’s thematic concept. Above all, the play portrays with honesty and integrity the down-home people with whom Jesus presumably would have elected to spend his time had he been born in North Carolina instead of Judaea. At the same time, by emphasizing the earthly humanity of Jesus, Linney forces his audience to reconsider a fundamental aspect of the Christian message: Blessed are the poor, the hungry, and the meek. Even God, having become flesh and lived with humanity, experiences pain, sorrow, and love. The Lord brings it all into focus at the moment that his reasons for visiting Sand Mountain suddenly become clear.

These religious musings do not burden the play, nor do they turn it into a sermon. Saint Peter, ever the foil for both humor and meaning in the play, asks The Lord at the end of “Joseph the Carpenter” what might be the point of the story, since “none of that really happened.” Jean, with The Lord’s clear approval, repeats a theme introduced earlier: “Hit ain’t the ending whut’s important. Hit’s the beginning.” The daily new beginning to find meaning in life is more important than any ultimate truth actually found.

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