Buried Child

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Ansel is the third son of Dodge and Halie, and never appears onstage. Ansel dies decades before the events of the play. Halie remembers him as a model son, although the circumstances surrounding his death are bizarre and mysterious. Ansel’s death becomes an external event that Halie uses to rationalize her own dissatisfaction with her life.

Ansel Quotes in Buried Child

The Buried Child quotes below are all either spoken by Ansel or refer to Ansel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Buried Child published in 2006.
Act 1 Quotes

I put all my hopes in Ansel… Course then when Ansel died and left us all alone. Same as being alone. No different. Same as if they’d all died… He was a hero. Don’t forget that. Brave. Strong…

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Ansel
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

This passage comes during a bizarre monologue of Halie's in which she progressively inflates her opinion of her dead son Ansel, showing the audience her delusions in action. She begins the monologue seemingly uncertain as to Ansel's place in her estimation ("Ansel wasn't as handsome, but he was smart. He was the smartest probably. I think he probably was."), but by the end of the monologue she has convinced herself that Ansel was the greatest person in the family, and deserves to be commemorated with a full statue in town. 

This is a clear example of Halie's unwillingness to be honest with herself about the family's problems, constantly blaming others for her own difficulties. Here, she blames Ansel's death for the demise of the family, suggesting that her other sons meant nothing to her after Ansel was gone, a deeply cruel statement coming from their mother. This monologue also shows how the past in this play acts as both scapegoat and irritant. Because the bad events from the family's past are never openly spoken about, nobody is held accountable to the truth of the past. Halie is free to revise her family's history as she sees fit, allowing her to evade responsibility for her faults. This slippery presence of the past also allows family members to cruelly torment each other by referencing events without conscientiously diving into them.

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He was blind with love. Blind. I knew. Everyone knew. The wedding was more like a funeral. You remember? All those Italians. All that horrible black, greasy hair. The rancid smell of cheap cologne. I think even the priest was wearing a pistol. When he gave her the ring I knew he was a dead man. I knew it. As soon as he gave her the ring. But then it was the honeymoon that killed him. The honeymoon. I knew he'd never come back from the honeymoon.

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Ansel
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

This statement, referring to Ansel's wedding day, is the first indication that Halie may have had an incestuous relationship with her sons. The revelation, which comes about as Halie expresses bizarre and possessive feelings towards her son and an obsessive focus on his honeymoon, shows another layer of deep dysfunction within the family, and indicates the power and violence of the family bond. This is one iteration of the theme that returns again and again in the play—the idea that no family member can ever escape the family.

This revelation is particularly disturbing, since it comes in a monologue that is full of hatred for Catholics, blaming Ansel's death on his Catholic wife, whom Halie describes as "the devil incarnate." Halie is the character in the play for whom religion is most important, but her blanket hatred of Catholics shows how dogmatic and perverse her sense of religion really is. It also shows how deep her sins are and how shallow her empathy is, as her feelings toward Ansel's marriage are only ones of violent jealousy, and never happiness for her son.

Act 3 Quotes

Halie: Ansel’s getting a statue, Dodge. Did you know that? Not a plaque but a real live statue. A full bronze. Tip to toe. A basketball in one hand and a rifle in the other.

Bradley: He never played basketball!

Halie: You shut up, Bradley! You shut up about Ansel! Ansel played basketball better than anyone! And you know it! He was an All American! There’s no reason to take the glory away from others.

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Bradley (speaker), Dodge, Ansel
Page Number: 97-98
Explanation and Analysis:

This moment showcases the grandiosity and absurdity of Halie's delusions. She has convinced the hypocritical Father Dewis to erect a statue of her son Ansel, whom she remembers (it seems dubiously) as a sports hero. While many questions have been raised as to the quality of Halie's memory, this exchange shows, perhaps most clearly, the extent to which she feels she needs to rewrite the past. Halie is not simply satisfied with her saccharine and manipulated narratives of the family's past—she also feels the need to also have others recognize her delusions by casting them in bronze. When Bradley attempts to fact-check Halie, she lashes out at him, refusing to admit to her own falsehoods and accusing Bradley instead of trying to "take the glory away" from Ansel. This shows how heavily the past weighs on these characters, as well as the cruelties they are willing to propagate in the present in order to protect a past that is traumatic and dubiously remembered.

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Ansel Character Timeline in Buried Child

The timeline below shows where the character Ansel appears in Buried Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
...Tilden and Bradley exposed themselves as failures, she placed her hopes in her youngest son, Ansel. Halie finally enters from upstairs, appearing onstage for the first time. She is a woman... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...in her story, explains that Father Dewis wants to recommend to the city council that Ansel be commemorated with a statue. She then blames Ansel’s death on the fact that he... (full context)
Act 3
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
...whiskey and drinks it in front of Dodge as she claims that a statue of Ansel, holding a basketball and rifle, will be built. Bradley interjects that Ansel never played basketball,... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...was ashamed of it, and so he killed the child. Halie begins to claim that Ansel would have saved the child, and then there is a crash on the screen porch. (full context)