Marsha Norman (21 Sep. 1947)
Three unities are tactfully maintained by Marsha Norman in 'night, Mother. Action is reduced almost to a face to face talk on the table. Mentally Jessie and Thelma are seen travelling back to their pasts in their attempt to diagnose the root cause behind their futile lives. Except a few retrospective actions the play has kept a compressed portion of the action. The place is also united. Within the house of Thelma Cates the serious conversation between Jessie and Thelma proceeds. Temporal unity is also inherent in the play in that the narrative time is synchronized to the actual time. Marsha Norman has not divided the action of 'night, Mother into Acts and Scenes. Perhaps she did do so thinking that the portrayal of psychological realism embedded in the corpus of the characters' psyche entailed an undivided and untroubled continuity of action.
The setting and stage descriptions are not full of ornate images and symbols. The way frustrated people from the lower middle-class life have found its reflection in the setting of the play. The emotional sterility of characters is represented and revealed in the description of the setting of 'night, Mother. Although 'night, Mother is in the mold of tradition, it is replete with heavy symptoms of experimentation. The protagonist in 'night, Mother is subversive of all the established standards and decorum's concerning what a protagonist ought to be. Unlike the traditional protagonist, the protagonist of 'night, Mother is epileptic, unbeautiful, frustrated and suicidal. This is the ironic stature of Marsha Norman's protagonist subversive and experimental presentation. In the framework of tradition, Marsha Norman has introduced many tangible and intangible elements of experimentation. In traditional plays any open and demonstrative show of suicide was considered to be a taboo. But Marsha Norman's 'night, Mother is an exception to the rule. In this play Jessie Cates casually talks about her suicide plan with her mother. Jessie is seen cleaning her father's old pistol. Is not this suicidal audacity of Jessie a frightening daring do? This exhibition of her boldness in preparation for suicide is purely shocking. The introduction of this sort of shocking theme is itself experimental. By throwing this sort of shockingly experimental stuff to the forefront of the play, Marsha Norman has rendered her play thematically experimental. The brilliance of Norman's dramatic craftsmanship can be observed in her power to decolonize the American plays. By introducing two women caught in the cruel throat of futility and frustration, Marsha Norman has posed a big challenge to the established canon of Modern American plays. In this authentic and innovative process of decolonization Marsha Norman tends to be an admirably successful playwright.
The play is a convincing critique of the myth of the failed American dream. Prior to Marsha Norman, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Hansberry all attacked the myth of the American dream. With equal voice they declared that nothing is more dangerous than the myth of the failed American dream. The American women's dream was happy and comfortable marital life. This dream shattered to the effect that the frustrated victims of the dream had to choose suicide as a measure to the liberation.