Stuck in the “Mud”: The Connection between Subject Matter & Genre

Maria Irene Fornes’ decision to portray Mud via the drama genre emphasizes and makes more realistic the plight that the characters in her play are experiencing. Seeing as the reality of poverty was and still is often romanticized and its violent blow softened when being depicted for the general public (e.g. pictures of lower-class Bahamians from the late 17th and earlier centuries, who worked as fruit vendors and elsewhere in the manufacturing industry, depicted these lower-class Bahamians as being happy, kind and decent people), Fornes’ decision to deviate from such a norm and depict the un-sugarcoated and harsh realities of those living in poverty is refreshing. Because really, how happy can one be if they are underfed and ultimately lacking the basic resources for survival? Poverty in itself is a harsh reality that many the world over face. Therefore, for Fornes, because of its performative nature and how it allows individuals to marry the physical and literary, the drama genre appears to be the best choice for depicting the realities of those who are impoverished. Additionally, as we discussed in the earlier days of this class, drama is the only literary form that is structured to be read and performed. Had Fornes relied solely on fiction to depict the story of Mae, Henry and Lloyd, the impact of the piece could have significantly decreased. Instead of being viewed in a serious light by audiences, Mud could have possibly been viewed as made-up and unreal. To me, the true dramatic power of Mud cannot be conveyed on pages alone; seeing the play physically unfold before one’s eyes adds a visual element that aids in making things “real” for audiences. I am reminded of Fences, once a play on Broadway, but now a major motion film. In depicting the increasing poverty of this African-American family, drama aids significantly in making the experience of the family more practical and realistic for the audience. Though cliché, I say that “seeing is believing” proves especially true in this instance.

Brief social commentary on Fornes’ statement on the power of education: In the first act of the play, we are exposed to Mae, a self-motivated, young woman, cognizant of her and her house mate Lloyd’s worsening economic condition, yet optimistic that the education she actively pursues will be her “escape” from the mud, much like how Glen, Melinda and other slaves in Williams Wells-Brown’s The Escape or a Leap for Freedom viewed getting to the boat in the play as their means of freedom; in scolding Lloyd for his laziness, further dependence and expectation that Mae should provide dinner despite her working all day, Mae tells him that when she finishes school, “[she’s] leaving. You hear that? You can stay in the mud.” Through the characterization of Mae, we can assume that Fornes is aware of the extreme value of education to those who are impoverished. This can be contrasted to those individuals who come from affluent families and are nonchalant towards their education. Those impoverished see the value of education because that is all they have, whereas those with so much physical possessions under-appreciate a true gem.

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