Themes and Meanings
This play resembles other Horton Foote plays in that it reminds the audience of the extraordinariness of ordinary human existence. Foote resembles the novelist William Faulkner in his conviction that fundamental truths can be found and expressed by means of a fictionalization of one’s intimate experience of a region. He also brings to mind Aristotle, for Mrs. Watts’s recognition of the unnecessary suffering of her son brings about the reversal of her misery as she realizes that she can act to diminish his pain. Her immediate sense of recovered strength and dignity amounts to a transformation.
The idea that wisdom comes through suffering is ancient, but this theme is as fundamental in Foote’s plays as in ancient Greek tragedies. It is the agony of Mrs. Watts’s disappointment in the Harrison bus station, echoed somewhat more mildly in her final outburst to Ludie at the old house, that makes it possible for her to comprehend and manage her disappointment. She renounces her dreams as she returns to the self-sacrificing role of loving mother, a woman who realizes she now has the strength to do what she must do and tolerate what she must tolerate in the final days of her life.
This play develops some of the significant conflicts familiar to any person of rural background who has moved to the city. The abandonment of the natural world for the artificial world can stress or distort human nature itself, and Mrs. Watts and Ludie feel that stress...
(The entire section is 479 words.)