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Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother illustrates a central point about the nature of what
creates drama in a play: the anticipation of an outcome. In this case, that means that
Mama, and the story's audience, learns early on of Jessie's plans. And because of learning
Jessie's plans, both Mama and the story's audience are thrust deep into the heart of this
story's question: Will Jessie really kill herself, or can Mama find a way to stop her?
What's at stake in this story is also made very clear: Jessie's going to kill herself. Can
Mama talk her out of it? The central issue that 'night, Mother delivers is that the more
reasons Mama tries to grasp to convince Jessie not to kill herself, the more she reaffirms
Jessie's belief that her life is useless and it's simply better to end her suffering with a clear
The play opens on what appears to be a typical Saturday night for Jessie and
Mama. Mama finds the last snowball -- some junk food -- in the fridge, Jessie asks for
some black plastic bags. It's on their schedule that Jessie will give Mama a manicure.
Then Jessie asks:
JESSIE: Where's Daddy's gun?
Life for Jessie and Mama is such a dull routine, Mama doesn't even pause to
consider the request odd. She evens helps Jessie figure out where the gun is kept. It's not
until half a column later that Mama asks:
MAMA: What do you want the gun for, Jess?
Mama at first considers that she and Jessie have nothing t...