Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel (1971)

Summary:  Beatrice lives at home with her two daughters (Tillie and Ruth), an elderly woman named Nanny (whose family pays for her to be there) and a rabbit (who things cannot end well for).  Beatrice is emotionally abusive to her two daughters, likely drinks too much and frequently makes Tillie stay home from school to help her with Nanny and various chores around the house.  The dramatic action of the play changes when the school calls home to report that Tillie is a finalist in the school science fair.

Thoughts:  In the Introduction, Zindel writes, "I suspect it is autobiographical, because whenever I see a production of it I laugh and cry harder than anyone else in the audience."  This statement creates immediate sympathy for the author because, from start-to-finish, Beatrice is a character who no child should ever be subjected to.  Zindel's body of work includes an overwhelming majority of young adult novels.  This play, like most of those books, contains a strong moral that children are individuals, not just extensions of their parents.  Despite a horrendous upbringing, they can experience joy and ultimately triumph.

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