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Miss Lulu Bett.

A book by Zona Gale

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Miss Lulu Bett: A jarring, cacophonous, theatrical calmity.

  • Sep 21, 2001
Rating:
-3
Dramaturgically scrimpy in dialogue, plot, character development and visualization, Miss Lulu Bett is anything but an American comedy of manners; it is American manure, at best. A jejunely piece of writing, it belongs in a literary purgatory, bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball with its other run-of-the-mill literary ilk. It is neither evocative nor emotive of the human spirit, human desires or gashing human pains. It is an annoying lump in the stomach that goes nowhere. Hailed by critics and theatre-goers alike (squarely for its stripped emotional armor and restraint) when it debuted in 1921, Miss Lulu Bett eventually garnered the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Drama - a drama that was based on Zona Gale's novel of the same title (which must have been a wonderful reading experience). The play evolves around Miss Lulu Bett, a homely spinster whose life is her servitude to her waspish sister (Ina Deacon) and her hubristic 'man-of-the-house' brother-in-law (Dwight Deacon). Lulu is not goal-oriented, interesting or witty; she is overly ordinary, mousy by degrees and excessively hesitant about everything and anything. And when she does do something extraordinary, i.e. taking control of her life and future, even that seems bland - which was not the intent. Lulu is written in a fashion that is as exciting as staring at a piece of tarp. But in the play, that is precisely her role - to be the protective cloak that covers the exposed areas of vulnerability, and there are many gaping holes in the Deacon household. The writing structure and voice is inelastic and archaic. Like chalk dust, it can be easily blown away and dismissed. As the family doormat, whatever is festering in the family is eventually heaped upon dear, old, reliable, compliant Lulu. As the repetitive ruts within the play's confines march ahead, the drudging cycle is eventually broken when Lulu is introduced to Dwight's charismatic brother, Ninian Deacon, the one glimmer in the whole play. He encourages her to see her 'good' qualities (Were there any to start off with?), then proposes marriage to her in a manner that is neither legitimate or credible. And the fact that the proposal passed off as something plausible is still very questionable. Ultimately, the marriage is not acknowledged or spoken of because of the most absurd circumstances. In her brief union/respit, Lulu finds a kind of independence that she never felt before, and when the marriage is no more, she uses her past marital experience as a catalyst to start a new life away from her annoyingly ungrateful family. Miss Lulu Bett perhaps works better as an insignificant period piece. But as true drama, I don't think so.

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More Miss Lulu Bett. reviews
review by . May 11, 2013
Miss Lulu Bett: A jarring, cacophonous, theatrical calmity.
Dramaturgically scrimpy in dialogue, plot, character development and visualization, Miss Lulu Bett is anything but an American comedy of manners; it is American manure, at best. A jejunely piece of writing, it belongs in a literary purgatory, bouncing back and forth like a ping pong ball with its other run-of-the-mill literary ilk. It is neither evocative nor emotive of the human spirit, human desires or gashing human pains. It is an annoying lump in the stomach that goes nowhere. Hailed by critics …
About the reviewer
Christian Engler ()
Ranked #652
Not much to say; my info section and likes pretty much says it all. Cheers.
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“The book stands as a signal accomplishment in American letters.”–New Republic
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Details

ISBN-10: 0837190215
ISBN-13: 978-0837190211
Author: Zona Gale
Publisher: Greenwood Press Reprint

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