'night, Mother by Marsha Norman: Summary

'night, Mother a world-class play by Marsha Norman opens in the kitchen scene. The main two characters Mama Thelma and her daughter Jessie futilely talks about the trivial things and Jessie reveals her wish and plan to commit suicide that night. To commit suicide, she looks for the gun that belonged to her father.

Marsha Norman (21 Sep. 1947)

Thelma without knowing her intention tells her the location and she gets it in the old shoe box.

While cleaning the old gun, Jessie tells her mother that she will kill herself, but Thelma does not believe her at first. But with the course of their dialogue she realizes that her daughter is serious in her intention. She then starts to dissuade her. Neglecting her Mama's talk, she continues to instruct her how to handle all the chores of home after her death. She has even planned for the Christmas gifts for them for several years. In order to keep her Mama Thelma busy, she asks her to make some hot chocolate for them, though nobody in her house enjoys hot chocolate.

Jessie keeps on talking about her mother's friends and her family. It is revealed that she is in her mid-thirties, divorced, unemployed, ugly and epileptic. She is divorced from a man whom she still loves. She was addicted to smoking; her husband gave her ultimatum either to leave smoking or him. As she was abjectly addicted to smoking, she decided to leave her husband. Her son turns to be a thief and a drug addict. She has now no hope for the future. She knows well that her mother, Thelma keeps her at her house not because she loves Jessie but to kill her loneliness. Mother Thelma's self interest in keeping Jessie in also creates a sense of futility. Jessie sees no rays of love and hope to continue her life further.

To divert Jessie's mind from suicide, Thelma tells Jessie that her married life was not happy. She had expected a sweet home, a good family, a caring and loving husband. But all her hope turns to the ash when her husband died. She then aspires same love and care from her son, Dawson, but again her son gets married and starts living with his wife, away from Thelma. She feels too lonely and keeps her daughter Jessie with her. She tells Jessie that she loves her and she should not commit suicide. Jessie states that whether she lives for more fifty years, her life will be the same as now. So to stop living now and after fifty years does not have any difference for her. So, she is hell bent to her decision to commit suicide.

Their interaction makes clear that Thelma and Jessie love one another, but, to Jessie, her mother's love is not reason enough to continue living. Till now, they have not expressed love for each other. It is too late for Jessie to change her mind. Thelma pleads with Jessie to change their lifestyle. Her motherly love is clear in her attempts to convince her not to commit suicide.

In the last moments of the play, a desperate mother, Thelma sticks to her daughter and she is pushed aside. Jessie leaves the room with her muted farewell 'night, Mother.  She goes and locks herself in her room. After a few second, a gunshot is heard from the room and Thelma cries calling her son, Dawson.

'night, Mother Study Center

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'night, Mother Study Center

Introduction of 'night, Mother

Style of Norman in 'night, Mother

Biography of Marsha Norman