The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII
clothes to poor people it’s called charity. And you shouldn’t be taking it. You’re not like her ” ( The Other 81). O’Malley continues by specifically ticking off the chickens, the junk, and “the outhouse , that filthy, stinking . . .” as a comment she can hardly finish ( The Other 82), venting her anger by accusing Evelyn of not being entirely truthful about her past and wallowing in the despair into which Jewell has butted her. To her credit, Evelyn defends her origins: “You see all this, O’Malley? The mountains and the trees and the chickens and the outhouse? This is the truth. [. . .] I didn’t tell you about all this , O’Malley, because I was ashamed of it. Right or wrong, that’s how I felt. But now you know the truth. This is who I am” ( The Other 82-83). Evelyn’s list differs from O’Malley’s in that she includes the trees and mountains, emphasizing how the natural world has shaped her as much as human conditions have. In doing so, she suggests that her development has not been the result of evolution but of choice. Evelyn may not be “like” her family, but she is “of ” them, having drawn strength from that place in her pursuit of a new life. In this manner, Bush’s play presents Evelyn as an exception to the overwhelming social inertia of Mud Creek, Kentucky, because even those residents who believe they look out for her best interests would hold her down. While Evelyn has earned her master’s degree, her aspiring fiancé, Jackson Bennett, has served five years in a federal penitentiary for drug charges, as he has continued in his family’s business of running moonshine and dealing meth and OxyContin. Their first onstage encounter carries a great deal of symbolic resonance with Jewell’s treatment of Evelyn. After Jackson describes to Faye and her fiancé, Vernon, his intentions to marry Evelyn, he spits a wad of tobacco from the porch, hitting Evelyn in the face as she steps around the corner of the house. He later forces a kiss on her that results in his pushing chewed tobacco into her mouth. We learn that even though he has attended high school with her, he has learned to read and write only while incarcerated in the penitentiary, but he nevertheless intends to teach his children to read and write. A blissful bigot, a self-satisfied racist, a romantic sexist, and a cheerful chauvinist who combines the characteristics of Jethro Bodine and Archie Bunker, Jackson self-proclaims himself “a product of my environment. [. . .] It means that where I was raised up influenced me in a negative way” ( The Other 17). He offers no more than that superficial acknowledgment, however. Like Jewell, Jackson finds contentment in his Mud Creek life.
Bush presents more complications in Evelyn’s relationship with Faye, who reveals herself as Evelyn’s mother and yearns for Evelyn’s return to Mud Creek. Faye confides that, newly widowed, Jewell had a series of sexual partners, but one in particular treated Faye differently. “He was the first man I knowed,” Faye says, “who didn’t laugh at me for wantin’ somethin’ more” ( The Other 65). Faye does not consider herself to have been raped, and we learn that Evelyn’s father has left the community rather than be charged with statutory rape of Faye, then thirteen years old. The fiction of Jewell’s being Evelyn’s mother develops to preserve the family’s reputation—to the community, it explains Faye’s failure to graduate high school and to fulfill any further ambitions, but to the audience it also suggests Jewell’s animosity towards Evelyn. Even in her commitment to help Evelyn earn an education, Faye believes that Evelyn will “see for [her]self that one place is just about the same as any other” ( The Other 60). She has arranged for Evelyn to get a clerical job at the local Catholic mission just as she has encouraged Jackson Bennett to pursue Evelyn. She desires Evelyn’s stasis as she has settled comfortably into her own, engaged for over fifteen years to Vernon, a dependable, long-suffering man who never speaks except during O’Malley’s drunken hallucination. For Bush, this stasis suggests a risk of evolutionary throwback. Vernon has proposed to Faye during a drive in screening of Planet of the Apes , as Faye tells Evelyn, “Right after that part where Charlton Heston says, ‘Take your hands off me, you dirty ape!’” ( The Other 14). The play invites a comparison of Vernon’s proposal to Jackson Bennett’s proposal to Evelyn and her repeated assertion that Jackson kisses “like a baboon” ( The Other 26, 53). As much as she loves Faye, Evelyn cannot risk returning to this “slow to evolve” community, where even the priest in charge of the Catholic mission would see her achievements wasted rather than encourage her to pursue the work that would do the most good in a world that can advance. Bush’s Mud Creek will never advance. While O’Malley ponders dropping her tenured job to work at a local community college so they can live in a newly remodeled Thacker house with the latest appointments in appliances and plumbing, she quickly concedes that such a life would make her miserable. In a similar manner, Evelyn’s notion that Faye and Vernon could come to live with her and O’Malley has no real, pragmatic possibility. Faye cannot leave her mother, and O’Malley intuits that Vernon will never marry Faye
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