(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The Trip to Bountiful opens in the Houston apartment of the Wattses: Ludie, his wife Jessie Mae, and Mrs. Watts, Ludie’s mother. The play tells the story of Mrs. Watts, an elderly widow not without pride, who has left her rural Texas home to live with her hardworking and self-effacing son and his lazy, selfish wife. Jessie Mae likes beauty shops and movie magazines, and she insists on controlling her mother-in-law’s small government check. She also registers irritation at Mrs. Watts’s habits (such as quietly singing hymns), and she considers Mrs. Watts crazy to wish to return to her home, the small town of Bountiful, Texas. Mrs. Watts previously has made several unsuccessful attempts to return home, and when she again privately expresses this need to her son, she is told that he can make a living only in Houston. Awake on a moonlit night as his wife still sleeps, Ludie is comforted by his mother, who sings him a childhood song and tells him of another moonlit night in Bountiful when she relieved his childhood fear of death; he claims not to remember the occasion. Ludie’s wife awakens and quarrels with Mrs. Watts before returning to bed. The next day, chafing under the shrewish supervision of her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Watts hides her government check from Jessie Mae and plans her escape to Bountiful. The next day, she leaves with her bag after Ludie and his wife have left the apartment.

As act 2 opens, Mrs. Watts arrives at a Houston bus station, where she can only purchase a ticket to Harrison, a town near Bountiful. There she meets a friendly and lonely young woman, Thelma, who is going to her parents’ home until her husband returns from overseas. Mrs. Watts, seeing her son and his wife approach the station, hides. Ludie learns that his mother has been there and leaves with Jesse Mae, who asks the police to help them retrieve Mrs. Watts.

In the next scene, Mrs. Watts talks to a sympathetic Thelma on the bus...

(The entire section is 798 words.)