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Marsha Norman’s Night, Mother and Terence McNally’s Andre’s Mother are very interesting plays that touch upon several important themes. This paper compares and contrasts both plays by examining their central themes. Each of them touches such topics as secrets, communication, the relationship between a mother and a child, suffering, and complex morality among others. It is interesting that the two works depict mothers, however, in different light. The reader strives to answer such questions as, for instance, the mothers’ responsibility for the lives and deaths of their children or lack of communication with them among others. Norman’s Night, Mother and McNally’s Andre’s Mother are similar in that they both address the themes of secrecy and problematic relationships between mothers and their children; and differ in the way they depict mothers and the range of the issues covered.
Norman’s Night, Mother is similar to McNally’s Andre’s Mother in that both plays focus on family issues, mainly, on mothers’ relationships with their children. Norman’s Night, Mother presents mother-daughter relationship through such characters as Mama, Thelma, who struggles to get along with her daughter, Jessie. McNally’s Andre’s Mother highlights the lack of communication between the Mother and her son, Andre. Another similarity between these plays is the roles that the mothers played in the family. Night, Mother depicts Thelma as a hardworking woman, who fills the house with her handiwork. On the other hand, McNally portrays Andre’s Mother as an industrious mother, who is ready to use her wealth to do anything for her son. Thus, both plays focus on problematic relationship between mothers and children and point out their important role s in families.
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One of the similarities between McNally’s Andre’s Mother and Norman’s Night, Mother is that they share the theme of secrecy. Just as Jessie keeps her reason for planning suicide in a secret, Andre hides his relationship with Cal and desire to become a dancer from his mother. He felt that revealing his affairs would tarnish the name of his family. Cal even says to Andre’s mother that “The only thing that frightened him was you” (McNally 1603). Knowing that his parents would not approve his wish to become a dancer, Andre decided to keep the idea to himself even though he had the talents to do so. Thus, both plays touch upon the theme of secrecy between mothers and children.
In many ways, the mothers and their children from the plays failed to meet their expectations to one other. For instance, Thelma finds it hard to establish a stable relationship with her daughter. Similarly to her, Andre’s mother could not control the life of her son and gets to know about it only after his death. Moreover, it can be argued that the struggles, setbacks and troubles people run into are implications of their mothers’ failure to teach them in the right way. In Night, Mother, Jessie is not able to cope up with her roles of a mother and a wife or even keep a job, yet those are the primary characteristics of Mama. At the same time, it is the failure of Jessie’s mother to teach her to act in the right way. She even fails in her attempt to convince Jessie not to commit suicide. In McNally’s play, Andre dies of AIDS, and that factor is a repercussion of the carefree life. The fact that he was a gay is revealed by Cal after his death. Therefore, these facts show that Andre failed to meet the expectations his mother had for him. On the other hand, it also shows the failure of Andre’s mom to teach and guide her son to take charge of his life.
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One of the similarities that Mama, Jessie’s mother, and Andre’s mom share is that they both are industrious. Mama’s house is full of her handiwork while the wicker basket overflows with some of her unfinished art. She loves hard work and has to do it on a daily basis. The fact that the house iss full of her belongings implies that she works to get them. Similarly, Andre’s mother has the same quality because she is a wealthy woman and must have worked hard for her riches.
McNally’s Andre’s Mother and Norman’s Night, Mother depict mothers in different lights. Jessie plans to commit suicide, announces the idea to her mother and does it. This incident reveals two implications such as the fact that Jessie has little respect to her mother because she does not listen to her pleas and the other one that Mama has a poor relationship with Jessie. Therefore, one can conclude that Andre’s Mother was a better mother than Thelma. Unlike Mama, who had a horrible relationship with her daughter, Andre’s Mother relates to her in an appropriate manner. She communicated to Andre about her intentions of taking him to a college. However, even though Andre desired to dance, he knew that his mother had different plans for him. Andre might have led a reckless lifestyle, but he hid it from his mother. If she knew that her son wanted to venture in dancing, slept around with girls, or was gay, then she could have put things in order. The fact that Andre kept his actions secret also implies that he respected her. Probably, the character was afraid to come to her and announce his orientation and risky behavior because he loved and respected her too much. Thus, the plays depict different kinds of mothers.
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Another difference between these plays is the settings. While Norman’s Night Mother takes place in a single location, the house, McNally’s Andre’s Mother involves different joints, including the funeral parlor, school, and Andre’s home among others. The difference in the settings underlines the scopes of these plays, with McNally’s Andre’s Mother covering more aspects than Norman’s play.
In spite of the fact that Norman’s Night, Mother and McNally’s Andre’s Mother share similarities in that they both address the themes of secrecy and problematic relationships between mothers and their children; the two plays differ in the way they outline other aspects of life in general. Both plays demonstrate how alienated mothers and children can be if they fail to communicate with or have too high expectations to each other. At the same time, both Norman McNally focus on the theme of secrecy between the closest people. Jessie and Andre respected their mothers differently, and it has influenced their relationships in non-similar ways. In fact, plays, just like other sets of art, can present real-life issues in a dramatic way. McNally’s Andre’s Mother and Norman’s Night Mother raise the audiences’ awareness of such issues as AIDS and suicide. Most importantly, these plays call people on to start working on their relationships with their mothers before it is too late.