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Night Mother

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The play 'Night Mother, written by Marsha Norman, is very different from other playwrights. Norman bases the play on suicide, a topic that is sensitive to some, and not usually talked about. Norman discusses this very controversial topic, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusion on if suicide is ever a justifiable act. Yet, Norman had the intention of persuading the reader that suicide may be acceptable and is understandable in certain situations. Most audiences are against suicide, and Norman's purpose in writing this play is to open the minds of the audience, and to show suicide can be a rational, thought-out process.

Norman creates a character, Jessie, whom she anticipates the audience will sympathize with. Jessie has come to the conclusion that she no longer has a purpose in the world. Jessie has lost every thing that made her life worth living. To begin with, her husband, Cecil, divorced her and her son, Ricky, is a criminal neither of them want anything to do with her. In addition, she has seizures that take control of her body and mind, which leads her to be very unstable mentally and physically. Jessie does not have a job or a hobby and she feels that her life is completely useless. Jessie could never really hold a job, she lacked the communication skills to be around other people. Jessie blames her seizures as to why she cannot maintain a job. She said, "I could have a seizure any time. What good would a job do?" (p. 1472). Jessie uses her illness as an excuse and does not have any interest on trying to find a job, or even happiness.

She feels she has failed as a wife, mother, and daughter. She also believes she will never become happy and accepts it by deciding to stop the pain by means of putting an end to her life. She trusts she has finally gained control of her mind and thinks suicide has become her purpose in life and she will not fail at it. She decides that her life is all that belongs to her and she can "say what is going to happen to it. And it's going to stop" (p. 1472). Norman expects the audience to identify with Jessie's situation and support her decision to commit suicide.

What makes Jessie's situation unique from ordinary suicide cases is that she appears to have thoroughly thought about her decision to end her life. Unlike most cases of suicide, Jessie is selfless because she has taken the time to develop a list of things to tell her mother how to carry on without her. Jessie's mother is the only person she has, and she makes it a point to tell her mother she will be taken care of when she is gone. To the audience, this planning and making sure her mother will be fine, appears to be an unselfish act, which is what Norman intended on happening to help sway the audience into agreeing with Jessie's actions. It is understood to the audience that it is only in the past year Jessie has "gained control of her mind and body" (p. 1460). The fact that Jessie has been thinking about it for so long but never acted on it because she did not want her illness to affect her decision-making process, shows rationality.

Norman creates this play to demonstrate a scenario where suicide is reasonable under certain circumstances. Generally, suicide is viewed as an act of selfishness and the person committing the



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