'Night Mother Study Guide

'Night Mother

'Night Mother by Marsha Norman

The scene is the living room/kitchen of a small house on an isolated country road, which is shared by Jessie and her mother. Jessie's father is dead; she is epileptic and unemployable, her loveless marriage ended in divorce; her absent son is a petty thief and ne'er-do-well; her last two jobs failed and, in general, her life is stale and unprofitable. As the play begins Jessie asks for her father's service revolver and calmly announces that she intends to kill herself. At first her mother refuses to take her seriously, but as Jessie sets about tidying the house and making lists of things to be looked after, her sense of desperate helplessness begins to build. In the end, with the inexorability of genuine tragedy, she can only stand by, stunned and unbelieving, as Jessie quietly closes and locks her bedroom door and ends her profound unhappiness in one fatal, stunning and deeply disturbing moment—a moment never to be forgotten by those who have witnessed, and come to understand, her plight.

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