Marsha Norman (21 Sep. 1947)
The American dream has deceived the protagonist of the play Jessie and in its consequences Jessie reacts boldly committing suicide.
In 'night, Mother Jessie Cates can be seen as a piteous and pathetic victim of the cruelty of the American dream. Thelma Cates had married a man from whom she had expected many things. The warmth of emotional contentment, marital bliss, stable relation, nice, understanding between husband and wife - these were some of the things Thelma Cates had expected from her husband. With all these expectations in her mind, Thelma started her married life. Soon she came to know that hope and happiness, terrible disappointments and despair encircled her life. Her husband died after fathering Dawson and Jessie from her. With no life partner Thelma gradually dwindled down to the Wellspring of killing loneliness. She, then, hoped that her son, Dawson can bring real joy and happiness in her life. But that expectation soon evaporated when, Dawson became mature, he married Loretta and started living separately. It is natural for a woman to make natural expectation from her family members and from her life-friend. When Thelma's second expectation also evaporated, she continued to entertain hope. Now she entertained her expectation from Jessie. Thinking that Jessie is not herself able to catch a groom, Thelma fixed Cecil as Jessie's groom. Under Thelma's pressures, Jessie and Cecil married. Cecil fathered a son named Ricky from Jessie. Throughout her conjugal life Jessie continued to demonstrate her neurotic and morbid habit. Cecil tried to change this addicted habit of Jessie. But Jessie remained as firm as a rock in her mania for smoking. As a result, Jessie was kicked aside by Cecil. Cecil started living with another woman. In this way one after the other Thelma's dream began to be crushed. Her dream of a stable, happy life evaporated one after the other due to a series of accidents, disaster and misfortune. Although so many disasters befell Thelma, she continued to endure them stoically and patiently. So she appears to be mentally sturdy. She had a cool, calm and collected approach, a happy-go-lucky approach to disasters and misfortunes which threaten the basic foundation of life.
Unlike her mother, Thelma, Jessie has no strength and stamina to endure overpowering sufferings resulting from the futility and frustrations of life. Jessie used to derive a sort of psychological solace her relationship with the father. Because both the father and the daughter were afflicted with epilepsy, there was a certain degree of harmonious understanding between them. Psychologically, she felt close to her father. After the death of her father, she did not find a friend who can understand her. Under the pressures imposed by her mother, Thelma, Jessie had to marry Cecil, who does not have even an atom of understanding. Because of Cecil's failure to understand Jessie their marital life collapses. The bond of marriage turned out to be sterile. Jessie was deprived of love of a husband. She failed to be a successful mother because her son turned out to be a thief and an addict. Increasingly, she realized that she has been living as a living token to fill the vacuum of loneliness embedded in Thelma. No marital joy, no friend, no stable family life, no contentment, no joy. She was stuck by the flame of frustration. Her entire endeavor to make much of her life resulted in failure. She came to have a painful understanding of the truth that life is a pack of futilities and frustrations. She became suicidal pessimistic. She grasped the cruel truth of human life. She, at that time, stood face to face with an awareness that it is dangerously unbecoming to harbor dream and expectation from life. Pessimistic and mentally disastrous, she found herself caught in the vicious circle of futilities and frustration. She knew that the chariot of life has gone out of control. Thinking that perhaps suicide can impose order and meaning in her life. She committed suicide. It is the horrendous consequences of the failed American dream that led to her suicide.