Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hell Bent Fer Heaven by Hatcher Hughes (1924)

Summary:  Sid Hunt has just returned from World War I and declares his intent to marry Jude Lowry; even though his brother Rufe also wants her.  Meanwhile, Andy Lowry (the postman and Jude's brother) shows up and a decades-old feud between the two families is discussed.  After some prohibited drinking, Andy states that he intends to settle the score and sets out to kill Sid.

Ultimately, in a quest to have Jude for himself, Rufe attempts to murder his own brother by blowing up a dam that Sid will be be crossing (to get away from Andy).  A devoutly religious man, Rufe states that God commanded the killing.  While all of this action is taking place, unprecedented rainfall threatens flooding and necessitates evacuation--and Rufe is left without a space in the boat (which the family just happens to have on hand).  Rufe is unsympathetically told that, if God actually mandated the killing, He will protect Rufe during this trial.

Thoughts:  This is another play written in "dialect" that took me hours to read.  The Hunts and Lowries are mountain people from North Carolina and this is reflected in every line of their dialogue.  This play is a rather bleak examination of human nature--greedy and grudge-filled.  While family allegiance is a major subject of the play, Hughes' work also reflects the idea that individuals fight with their own families in ways that they would not even consider in the "outside" world.

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