Places: ’night, Mother

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1983

First produced: 1982, at the American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Psychological realism

Time of work: Late twentieth century

Places DiscussedHouse

House. ’night, MotherTypical ranch house built at the end of a country road. No name is given to a town here, but the rather isolated nature of the house is important, as it symbolizes the lonely life that Jessie lives in it. In contrast to Jessie, her mother is happily ensconced in her cozy living room. It is filled with nice products of her needlework that are all pleasantly attractive. Since Jessie is ill with epilepsy, she seldom leaves her house, in which she is increasingly becoming a prisoner as she ages.

On the land abutting the house, Jessie’s father had once had a farm, described as existing almost totally independent of the house. The realm of the farm belonged to the father almost exclusively, just as the realm of the house belonged to the mother.

Small house

Small house. House that Jessie’s husband, a carpenter, built for her in earlier years. It was a small and cozy house, in which she seems to have been happy.

BibliographyBetsko, Kathleen, and Rachel Koenig. Interviews with Contemporary Women Playwrights. New York: William Morrow, 1987.Browder, Sally. “ ‘I Thought You Were Mine’: Marsha Norman’s ’night, Mother.” In Mother Puzzles: Daughters and Mothers in Contemporary American Literature, edited by Mickey Pearlman. New York: Greenwood Press, 1989. This article looks at Jessie’s reliance on her mother, Thelma’s reliance on her daughter, and what impact these relationships have on the self-concept of each woman.Burkman, Katherine H. “The Demeter Myth and Doubling in Marsha Norman’s ’night, Mother.” In Modern American Drama: The Female Canon, edited by June Schlueter. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1990. A psychological exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter that traces ’night, Mother to the ancient Greek myth of Demeter and Kore.Demastes, William W. “Jessie and Thelma Revisited: Marsha Norman’s Conceptual Challenge in ’night, Mother.” Modern Drama 36, no. 1 (1993): 109-120. Demastes suggests that, although it is a realistic social drama, the play attacks the established order and denies understanding.Gill, Brendan. Review in The New Yorker. LXVI (April 11, 1983), p. 109.Grieff, Louis K. “Fathers, Daughters, and Spiritual Sisters: Marsha Norman’s ’night, Mother and Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie.” Text and Performance Quarterly 9, no. 3 (1989): 224-228. The focus of this study is the relationship of the emotionally crippled daughter with her long-absent father.Gross, Amy. “Marsha Norman.” Vogue 173 (July, 1983): 200-201, 256-258. A general interview article that discusses Norman’s views on ’night, Mother.Harriott, Esther. American Voices: Five Contemporary Playwrights in Essays and Interviews. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1988.Hart, Lynda, ed. Making a Spectacle: Feminist Essays on Contemporary Woman’s Theatre. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989.Kane, Leslie. “The Way Out, the Way In: Paths to Self in the Plays of Marsha Norman.” In Feminine Focus: The New Women Playwrights, edited by Enoch Brater. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1989. This article compares the mother-child relationships and the development of self in ’night, Mother to similar concepts examined in Norman’s other plays.Morrow, Laura. “Orality and Identity in ’night, Mother and Crimes of the Heart.” Studies in American Drama 3 (1988): 23-39. This study examines the relationship of orality in the development of female identity in Norman’s play and compares it to Beth Henley’s play.The New York Times Magazine. Review. May 1, 1983, p. 22.Porter, Laurin R. “Woman Re-Conceived: Changing Perceptions of Women in Contemporary American Drama.” Conference of College Teachers of English Studies 54 (1989): 53-59. This journal article provides a comparison of the play to Crimes of the Heart and Agnes of God.Savran, David. In Their Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1988.Smith, Raynette Halvorsen. “ ’night, Mother and True West: Mirror Images of Violence and Gender.” In Violence in Drama, edited by James Redmond. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Smith compares Norman’s and Sam Shepard’s treatment of violence in relationship to gender.Spencer, Jenny S. “Marsha Norman’s She Tragedies.” In Making a Spectacle: Feminist Essays on Contemporary Women’s Theatre, edited by Lynda Hart. Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 1989. A feminist reading of Norman’s dramas in which ’night, Mother is seen as a drama of feminine passivity.Spencer, Jenny S. “Norman’s ’night, Mother: Psycho-Drama of Female Identity.” Modern Drama 30, no. 3 (1987): 364-375. Takes a psychological approach in comparing the audience response of men to the play with the audience response of women.Stone, Elizabeth. “Playwright Marsha Norman: An Optimist Writes About Suicide, Confinement, and Despair.” Ms. 102 (July, 1983): 56-59. An interview of Norman in which she explains Jessie’s relationship to her mother, Jessie’s suicide, and other aspects of ’night, Mother.Tweeton, Leslie. “Art for Art’s Sake: The American Repertory Theatre,” in Boston Magazine. LXXVI (February, 1984), p. 23.
Categories: Places