Sand Mountain Matchmaking

(Great Characters in Literature)

Rebecca Tull

Rebecca Tull, an attractive widow in her early twenties. Her first marriage was not very successful, though she did not wish for her husband to die. Other inhabitants of Sand Mountain, including her father (who is a preacher) and her mother, believe that it is her duty to remarry quickly so that she does not provide too much temptation for the men of the area. Rebecca, however, is too particular to settle for what she has mercifully escaped. Rebecca seeks some sort of equality and respect in her ideal partner, characteristics that are not abundant in the men of Sand Mountain. She has her own wealth; she does not need to marry for any reason except to please herself.

Clink Williams

Clink Williams, Rebecca’s first suitor. Clink Williams is a young man about Rebecca’s age. He views any future relationship with Rebecca on a purely physical plane. He sees himself as the man to fill Rebecca’s physical needs; he is very conceited and arrogant—though arrogance is a quality shared equally with his first two rivals. His cocksureness does not endear him to Rebecca. Despite his emphasis on sex, he is offended when Rebecca says Lottie’s charm (“A man’s horn is times three the size of his nose”) to him; hypocrite that he is, he says that she is now not “delicate” enough for him.

Slate Foley

Slate Foley, Rebecca’s second suitor, a man in his forties. He also sees any...

(The entire section is 547 words.)

Why the Lord Came to Sand Mountain

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Sang Picker

The Sang Picker, a mountain woman who picks ginseng to make her living. When the Lord stops to ask directions, the Sang Picker is elusive in her answers, but he does not seem to mind. Her key to a long and happy life is to “chew Gen Sang” and “ponder Bible Tales.” The Sang Picker has had three husbands, all of whom are dead by the time of the play. The Sang Picker is the narrator of this part of the play.

The Lord

The Lord, a mountain traveler. He is dressed like an “outlander” but with a mountain hat and a kerchief as well as a small pack on his back. The Lord has come to Sand Mountain for a specific reason, as unfolds in the play, so he does not let Saint Peter deflect him from going up to the top of Sand Mountain. The Lord does not look like a miraculous figure, though people sometimes see halos on him and on Saint Peter. He carries a long stick, which he uses to keep the fire going in Jack and Jean’s cabin.

Saint Peter

Saint Peter, the Lord’s friend and traveling companion. He does not see the goodness in the simple Appalachian mountain people and instead wishes to spend his night with the more prosperous people, who can offer good food and comfortable lodgings. Saint Peter realizes that he is the butt of the play, but the Lord shows his love for Peter.

Prosper Valley Farmer

Prosper Valley Farmer, a well-to-do man who...

(The entire section is 490 words.)

The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sand Mountain is the collective title for two one-act plays, Sand Mountain Matchmaking and Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain. These plays share a common locale (Sand Mountain) and are designed to be performed by the same cast; they also relate thematically.

Sand Mountain Matchmaking is a light curtain raiser, running about thirty minutes in performance. Rebecca Tull, a nubile young widow, sits in a chair through nearly the entire play interviewing a series of suitors, each of whom dances in to a strain of mountain music. She rejects three, who represent all the known marriageable men in the district, and then is advised by a wise old mountain woman to use a charm, a spell: Each suitor must be told, “A man’s horn is times three the size of his nose.” Somewhat reluctantly, Rebecca repeats this sentence to each undesirable suitor; each then leaves in a huff. At that point, Sam Bean enters, having been attracted by word of a young woman brazen enough to say such a thing to her suitors. In a somewhat longer scene, Rebecca and Sam find that they have much in common, and the play ends with the clear implication that Rebecca has found the appropriate husband.

Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain is a somewhat longer work which, although containing much effective comedy, aspires to more profundity. It is narrated by the Sang Picker, a mountain woman who gathers ginseng root and comments upon the folkways of her fellow denizens of Sand Mountain. In her opening monologue, she establishes that her people like tall tales, especially those with a biblical foundation, and then launches into the story of why Jesus and Saint Peter once visited Sand Mountain. As she begins to tell it, the other actors enter and perform it.

The Lord and Saint Peter are thoroughly human mountain men who journey into the neighborhood seeking Sand Mountain. The Sang Picker directs them. Despite a gathering thunderstorm, The Lord rejects an invitation to spend the night with the Prosper Valley Farmer—a well-fed bourgeois. Instead, The Lord pushes on to the mountain shack of Jack and Jean, an older husband and young wife,...

(The entire section is 886 words.)

Dramatic Devices

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Sand Mountain Matchmaking is full of presentational devices that, while removing the action from a realistic context, add to its comic delight. The musical phrases that introduce each character invite dance steps with each entrance. The blocking suggested in the stage directions keeps Rebecca and each of her suitors in two chairs facing the audience during most of the play. Romulus Linney describes his work as “a formal interview play” and asks that “business and movement . . . be kept to a minimum.”

Similarly, the structure of Why the Lord Come to Sand Mountain is carefully calculated to hold the audience at a distance until the last possible moment, when the play’s thematic complexity comes into focus with a single theatrical stroke. The Sang Picker narrates the story of The Lord coming to Sand Mountain; within that tale, Jack and Jean act out the story of Joseph the carpenter; within that play, Jesus suddenly begins to play himself, thus charging the play-within-a-play-within-a-play with spiraling layers of meaning.

Linney calls for long journeys to be suggested by the actors’ circling of the stage. Actors sit with their backs to the audience until, on cue, they turn to join in the action. The passage of an entire night is accomplished by the seated actors simply dropping their heads in a few moments of “sleep.” These presentational devices combine to establish the play as fantasy and to keep the audience...

(The entire section is 426 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Sources for Further Study

DiGaetani, John. “Romulus Linney.” In A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Linney, Romulus. Interview with Don B. Wilmeth. Studies in American Drama 2 (1987): 71-84.

Moe, Christian H. “Romulus Linney.” In Contemporary Dramatists. 6th ed. Detroit: St. James, 1999.

Schlatter, James F. “Story-teller in the Wilderness: The American Imagination of Romulus Linney.” Southern Quarterly: A Journal of the Arts in the South (Winter, 1994): 63-75.

Tedford, Harold. “Romulus Linney on ‘Sublime Gossip.’” Southern Theatre 38 (Spring, 1997): 26-32.

Wilmeth, Don B. “Romulus Linney.” In Speaking on Stage: Interviews with Contemporary American Playwrights. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996.