In Abraham's Bosom

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A: Paul Green Pf: 1926, New York Pb: 1927 G: Trag. in 7 scenes S: North Carolina, 1885–1906 C: 10m, 2fAbraham (‘Abe’) is the illegitimate son of mixed race of Colonel McCranie, a Southern gentleman. Concerned to help the African-American workers in the Colonel's turpentine woods, he asks his father for a schoolhouse. The Colonel's legitimate white son objects to Abe's forwardness and strikes him. Abe hits him back and is punished by the Colonel with a beating. Three years later Abe is married and has a son. His father, impressed by Abe's initiative, deeds him his house and land and even builds the schoolhouse. Eventually, most of Abe's pupils drop out of school. Fifteen years later Abe's school is long closed, and his arrogance has forced the family to move to town where his wife takes in washing. Their son grows up a guitar-playing wastrel, and Abe loses his job for answering back to his white employers. Undaunted, three years later Abe delivers a speech, demanding the building of a new school for his ‘fellow Negroes’, but he is chased off by the crowds. His white half-brother criticizes him for neglecting his crops. Furious, Abe murders him. Returning home, Abe warns his family to run away, but his wife stays with him, as he goes out to be shot by the lynch mob.

A: Paul Green Pf: 1926, New York Pb: 1927 G: Trag. in 7 scenes S: North Carolina, 1885–1906 C: 10m, 2f

Paul Green, the first and arguably the best American folk dramatist, never made concessions to the tastes of a predominantly white theatregoing audience and wrote in an authentic Carolina dialect. In the course of the sprawling action of a play like this, there is some predictable criticism of white notions of superiority and violence, but Green also shows that Abe is failed too by those he is trying to help. Abe himself is a complex character, whose dreams of heroic leadership undermine his admirable social concern. The play benefits from its song and dance and from moments of comedy, provided mainly by Abe's aunt Muh Mack.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Paul Green (1894—1981)