Produced the year after Beth Henley won the Pulitzer for Crimes of the Heart, the two women ushered in a renaissance of Southern female play writing. Forty-year-old Jessie Cates has battled epilepsy, mental illness, and depression for her entire life. Following her latest episode a year earlier which resulted in her husband Cecil leaving and divorcing her, Jessie has moved back home with her mother Thelma. Even though Jessie diligently catalogues ever item the pair owns, it appears that she has finally turned the corner in her life.
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This evening, Jessie has carefully organized the house and made other detailed preparations for the future while explaining the changes to Thelma, who does not immediately notice anything unusual.
Jessie explains that she intends to commit suicide at the end of the evening. Thelma, horrified, at first assumes Jessie is unhappy with their life together. Jessie calmly assures her that she is simply tired of living and has been for some time. Throughout it all, Thelma occasionally bursts into hysterics in which she attempts to reason with Jessie. Thelma rejects all of it, believing that Jessie will give up her plans if Thelma refuses to cooperate, but Jessie says she will kill herself regardless.
As Thelma begs and beats the door, the gunshot rings out, shocking Thelma to silence. After a moment to collect herself, she begins to carry out the instructions Jessie left for her. She is an epileptic who has experienced seizures most of her life. Nothing in life has worked out for this woman, including raising a son who turned out to be a disappointing loser. She has suffered with severe chronic depression that has never been treated. In the play, her long-standing despair has been temporarily relieved by a decision that has her uncharacteristically peaceful and talkative.
The usual grayness and unsteady physical energy of this woman have given way to a new purpose that is expressed in productivity and detached humor. Thelma "Mama" Cates: A widow, she is starting to feel her age and has easily allowed her depressed daughter to come and take care of all the details of her life.
She sees life as she wants it to be, rather than how it is. She speaks quickly and enjoys talking. She is a simple country woman who never wanted much and could find a way to be happy with whatever she had, even if it meant lying to herself and others. She has no need for intimacy in relationships, but is energized by social situations.
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. 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.