Talley Family Saga by Lanford Wilson

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(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Talley and Son. It is sunset, July 4, 1944. The Talley family learns from a telegram delivered by Harley Campbell that Eldon Talley’s youngest child, Timmy, was killed in the Pacific in World War II. Family members argue with one another over the family fortune, the importance of war heroes, the decision whether to sell the clothing factory to the out-of-state Delaware Industries, and the difficulty of grief. The eldest Talley, Calvin, is senile, so his son, Eldon, assumes power of attorney for the family businesses, the local bank, and the factory, which he co-owns with Harley.

After Avalaine Platt, the illegitimate daughter of the family’s laundry woman, accuses Eldon of being her father, Calvin tricks the unsuccessful handyman Emmet Young into marrying Avalaine; he will work as head cutter at the clothing factory. When Eldon and Harley object, Calvin says that he will not allow Young to work for him; instead, if Harley consents, the family will sell the factory to Delaware Industries and thus rid the Talley family of possible scandal. The factory will then move to Louisiana.

Although Eldon disagrees with his father and threatens to use his power to prevent losing the factory, he convinces Harley to sell him all the Campbell shares from the local bank. This enables the Talley family to control the bank. Before this point, Eldon hoped Timmy would return to work in the factory. Calvin and his daughter, Lottie, remind him that neither Timmy nor his brother, Buddy, were ever truly interested in the clothing industry. Timmy’s interest in the family business was a way to obtain the love and approval of his father.

Eldon’s daughter, Sally, appears. Aunt Lottie, who encouraged Matt Friedman to take Sally away from the Talley clan, convinces her to elope with him without telling anyone. Lottie does not inform Sally of Timmy’s death until after the marriage. As the agreement between Harley and Eldon concerning the bank is finalized, Sally packs. Sally exits, but not before Eldon sees her. Ironically, although everyone in the family, except for Aunt Lottie, is anti-Semitic, Eldon allows her to leave, telling her he hopes she is not making a mistake. The play ends with Lottie and Timmy (in his role as narrator) reflecting on the deterioration of the house—and, by implication, of the family.

Talley’s Folly. At the Talley family boathouse, Matt Friedman and Sally Talley discuss their relationship, World War II, the Talley family, and each other’s dreams and aspirations. Although Sally protests that she does not love Matt, it is clear that she does. Sally recognizes that she is the family misfit. She works as a nurse in an army hospital, is outspoken like her Aunt Lottie, and is fired from teaching Sunday school. She also defends Matt against the family’s anti-Semitic prejudice. Her father, Eldon, and her brother, Buddy, are most suspicious of Matt’s socialistic ideas, which come into direct conflict with the money-making, capitalistic patriarchs. In the past Sally was expected to wed Harley, son of the equally powerful Campbell, until she learns she is barren and thus is neither a financial nor a social asset. Matt, a bachelor in his forties, loves Sally, who is twelve years younger, and fights for her. Sally is reluctant to marry Matt because she cannot have his children; ironically, Matt does not want any children since he thinks the world is much too horrible. Despite Matt and Sally’s obvious differences and disagreements, the two agree to marry.

Fifth of July . In 1977, Kenneth Jr., his sister, June, his lover, Jed Jenkins, his niece, Shirley, and his Aunt Sally reunite with June and Ken’s friends, Gwen and John Landis. The Landises,...

(The entire section is 957 words.)