Buried Child

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Dodge Character Analysis

A farmer now in his seventies, Dodge is the central character and sickly patriarch of the family. His once-prosperous farm is now barren and rundown, and he is an alcoholic invalid who tries to hide his drinking from his wife. He acts ornery and hostile to his family, and seems disappointed with all his children. Over the course of the play we learn that Dodge murdered the child that his wife Halie had with his son Tilden. Dodge is in the last days of his life, and as he nears his end, he gradually begins to open up and reveal the secret (the buried child) that has been plaguing the family for decades. Although incredibly reluctant at first, Dodge’s eventual admission of this secret allows for the possibility that the family will move forward from its tendency towards dysfunction.

Dodge Quotes in Buried Child

The Buried Child quotes below are all either spoken by Dodge or refer to Dodge. 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

“You should take a pill for that! I don’t see why you just don’t take a pill! Be done with it once and for all. Put a stop to it. It’s not Christian but it works. It’s not necessarily Christian, that is. We don’t know. There’s some things the ministers can’t even answer. I, personally, can’t see anything wrong with it. Pain is pain. Pure and simple. Suffering is a different matter. That’s entirely different. A pill seems as good an answer as any.”

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Dodge
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation introduces us to the hypocritically religious side of Halie's character. While she invokes religion with reasonable frequency, muddled statements like this one ("It's not necessarily Christian, that is. We don't know. There's some things ministers can't even answer.") indicate that she calls on religion when it is convenient, abandons it when it isn't, and is generally casual about its teachings. 

This is also an interesting quotation because she distinguishes here between pain and suffering. Halie believes that it is appropriate to take a pill to cure the physical pain of Dodge's cough, but she indicates that it would not be appropriate to take a pill to cure suffering, that suffering has some kind of importance that shouldn't be erased. Indeed, throughout the play we see each family member encased in his or her own suffering, and, though they are all family, nobody seems to be trying to ease anyone else's suffering. Halie's statement proves prophetic, in a sense, because the family's suffering cannot be eased until it reaches an aggravated fever pitch and the family secret is revealed. 

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Halie’s Voice: You always imagine the worst things in people.

Dodge: That’s not the worst! That’s the least of the worst!

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Halie (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

In this exchange, Dodge has just accused Halie of encouraging Bradley to shave Dodge's head, which Dodge did not want. He makes a speech about how she was trying to "dress up the corpse" for company by having his head shaved and outfitting him with objects like a pipe and the Wall Street Journal, an accusation which alludes to Halie's penchant for fantasy and revisionism. In the exchange that follows, in which Halie says he is imagining the worst, and Dodge says it's "the least of the worst," he is making one of the many veiled references that appear throughout the play to the family secret (the buried child). So this exchange is a coded one in which Dodge accuses Halie of emasculating him and creating a fantasy, Halie tells him he is imagining the worst, and Dodge reminds her that her behavior has been much more depraved, likely referring to her incest and adultery. It is one of many examples of the family members jockeying for power over one another, humiliating each other, and reminding each other of their past mistakes. 

Halie’s Voice: Tilden’s the oldest. He’ll protect you.

Dodge: Tilden can’t even protect himself.

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Halie (speaker), Tilden, Bradley
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Dodge, the ailing patriarch, is threatened by his son Bradley, who is violent and aggressive with him. In this exchange Dodge is worried that Bradley will shave his head while he is sleeping again, and Halie insists that their other son Tilden will protect him. This is another example of Halie's delusions, in which she imagines her family to be much more functional than it is. Tilden is clearly mentally disturbed and vulnerable, but Halie still insists (when not confronted by the actual presence of Tilden) that he is the beloved football star who can fulfill his role as oldest son. This is an example of Shepard casting doubt on the reality of the American Dream; Halie relies on the traditional idea that the oldest son would protect his father, but this has never been the reality of their family, which readers understand more and more as the family secrets come out. For his part, Dodge recognizes that Bradley is dangerous and Tilden is incapable, but the family has degenerated so much that nobody will listen to Dodge and provide the care he desires. Dodge's violence and cruelty to others makes this negligence seem understandable, but the unavoidable conclusion is that the family has descended into chaos.

Tilden: I never had any trouble.

Dodge: Tilden, your mother told me all about it.

Tilden: What’d she tell you?

Dodge: I don’t have to repeat what she told me! She told me all about it!

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Tilden (speaker), Halie
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

In this exchange Tilden and Dodge are discussing Tilden's mysterious time in New Mexico, which Shepard obliquely indicates was marred by trouble, though all the reader knows is that Tilden was forced to come home because he could not look after himself anymore. However, this exchange becomes more meaningful in light of the play's later revelation that Halie conceived an incestuous child with Tilden. The double significance of this passage shows how the past weighs on this family, particularly the parts of the past that everyone knows but nobody is willing to speak about. Because these parts of the past have not been acknowledged and dealt with, the family members can continue to use shameful parts of the past as leverage over one another.

This passage is also an example of the ways in which the family members taunt each other and strive for power and dominance. In this scene Tilden wants to be treated like an adult, but Dodge continues to assert himself by prodding at Tilden about New Mexico. This is another case in which Shepard is poking a hole in the American dream. While the American dream indicates that a son should strike out on his own and succeed as his father had done, not only did Tilden fail to succeed on his own, but the home he returns to is a barren farm that is practically abandoned by his cruel and inept family. 

Tilden: I didn’t do anything.

Dodge: Then why should I have worried about you.

Tilden: Because I was by myself.

Dodge: By myself?

Tilden: Yeah. I was by myself more than I’ve ever been before.

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Tilden (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

In this exchange, Tilden reframes his time in New Mexico. While Dodge leads us to believe that Tilden got into trouble in New Mexico, Tilden insists that trouble wasn't the reason he came home. "I was lonely," he says, and doesn't elaborate further. The passage leads the audience to believe that this is an important statement, but at this moment in the play, the audience does not yet understand what he is referencing. Later, it becomes clear that Tilden fled home for New Mexico after Dodge drowned Tilden and Halie's child (which Tilden was particularly bonded with), and the loneliness that Tilden is referencing is darker than anyone could have imagined at this point in the play. Throughout the play, the family interacts with each other through veiled barbs like this one that almost always reference the past--it's as though their entire dynamic in the present is governed by horrible things that happened years earlier. 

You’ve gotta watch out for him. It’s our responsibility. He can’t look after himself anymore, so we have to do it. Nobody else will do it. We can’t just send him away somewhere. If we had lots of money we could send him away. But we don’t. We never will. That’s why we have to stay healthy. You and me. Nobody’s going to look after us. Bradley can’t look after us. Bradley can hardly look after himself… I had no idea in the world that Tilden would be so much trouble. Who would have dreamed? Tilden was an All-American, don’t forget. Don’t forget that. Fullback. Or quarterback. I forget which.

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Dodge, Tilden, Bradley
Page Number: 25-26
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Halie moves between her nostalgic fantasies and her recognition of the decaying state of their family life. While she recognizes that her two sons are unable to take care of her and Dodge, it is absurd for her to insist that she and Dodge "have to stay healthy" and take care of Tilden, as Dodge is clearly near death and is incapable of taking care of his son. 

This also provides a classic example of Halie's nostalgia for a time in which she seems to believe her family embodied the American Dream, and her confusion over why the family has not turned out the way the American Dream promised. Halie can't understand why Tilden, since he used to be a star fullback, is now helpless and "so much trouble." This seems steeped in denial, since she and Tilden had an incestuous relationship that produced a child that Dodge murdered; any one of those factors could have deeply affected Tilden's adult life. In addition, the fact that Halie gives this speech in full earshot of Tilden shows the bizarre cruelty of the family, as Halie does not even attempt to spare Tilden his dignity by giving such a negative assessment of his potential in private. 

Things keep happening while you’re upstairs, ya know. The world doesn’t stop just because you’re upstairs. Corn keeps growing. Rain keeps raining.

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Halie
Related Symbols: Rain, Vegetables
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

This complex statement, which comes in a conversation about whether or not there is corn growing in the backyard, gives the audience a sense of the contested reality the family is living in. Tilden, the family member most haunted by their secret, has always been able to see the corn growing in the back yard, and he continues to bring it inside throughout the play. Dodge has previously said to Tilden that there is no corn outside, but here, speaking to Halie, he claims that there is. Halie claims that she can see the backyard from upstairs and there is no corn. Symbolically, this has to do with each family member's willingness to admit to the existence of the murdered child. Halie is in complete denial, while Dodge is willing to reference the child at times when it is convenient for him (in other words, in order to taunt or gain power over other family members) but not at other times, so it makes sense that his statements about the corn are contradictory. Tilden, who makes the family aware of the corn in the first place, is the character for whom it seems most crucial to bring the secret out in the open, and he is the one who, at the end, literally exhumes the body. The imagery of the corn growing and the rain coming down also relates to the process of bringing forward the family secret. The rain and the corn give a sense of possibility for the family, of potential cleansing and renewal if everyone can acknowledge the truth of what happened.

Halie: I don’t know what’s come over you, Dodge. I don’t know what in the world’s come over you. You’ve become an evil man. You used to be a good man.

Dodge: Six of one, half a dozen of another.

Halie: You sit here day and night, festering away! Decomposing! Smelling up the house with your putrid body! Hacking your head off till all hours of the morning! Thinking up mean, evil, stupid things to say about your own flesh and blood!

Dodge: He’s not my flesh and blood! My flesh and blood’s buried in the back yard!

The Baby

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Halie (speaker), Bradley
Page Number: 32-33
Explanation and Analysis:

If it isn't clear to the audience yet that something very bad has happened in this family, it should be now. This revelation comes at the end of an argument in which Dodge insulted Bradley, and instead of defending Bradley's worth or character, Halie resorts to berating Dodge for his willingness to insult their son. This argument is another example of the family's cruelty to one another and their constant leveraging of the past in order to gain power. Though it is not entirely clear why Dodge brings up the buried child, it seems that he understands that bringing it up would abruptly end the argument, since Halie, who lives in a nostalgic world of denial and fantasy, cannot address the reality of the dead child. This clearly shows how Dodge only acknowledges the child out of convenience, while Halie cannot acknowledge it at all. 

Dodge's statement about the child is complex, as it seems to imply that the child was his, though we learn later that it was Tilden's. Since Dodge's statement about the child comes after his disavowal of the familial tie between himself and Bradley, the statement can be read more broadly as an admission that the family ("flesh and blood") was ruined as a result of the murder of the child. 

Dodge: You’re a grown man. You shouldn’t be needing your parents at your age. It’s unnatural. Couldn’t make a living down there? Couldn’t find some way to make a living? Support yourself? What’d’ya come back here for? You expect us to feed you forever?

Tilden: I didn’t know where else to go.

Dodge: I never went back to my parents. Never. Never even had the urge. I was always independent. Always found a way.

Tilden: I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t figure anything out.

Dodge: There’s nothing to figure out. You just forge ahead. What’s there to figure out?

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Tilden (speaker)
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the most clear illustrations of Shepard's cynicism about the feasibility of the American Dream. While Dodge is clearly beholden to the American Dream logic that his son, as an adult, should strike out on his own and be able to succeed without help from his family, Tilden has failed at this task. The fact that each of the family's sons has been unable to be independent (Bradley is disabled, Ansel is dead, and Tilden is mentally ill) shows the power of the family in always bringing the children back to their house and their chaos, and it also shows the gap between American expectations and the reality of American lives. In addition, this exchange shows the cruelty and delusion of the family. That Dodge can ridicule Tilden for failing in his adult life without feeling guilt or remorse for Dodge's own role in ruining Tilden's life (murdering his baby and causing him to flee home) shows the deep dysfunction of the family.  

Act 2 Quotes

…I mean Vince has this thing about his family now. I guess it’s a new thing for him. I kind of find it hard to relate to. But he feels it’s important. You know. I mean he feels he wants to get to know you all again. After all this time…

Related Characters: Shelly (speaker), Dodge, Vince
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

Throughout the play, Shepard gives us the sense that the gravitational pull of this family is inescapable. Bradley can't leave because he's injured, Tilden tried to leave and failed, Ansel died when he left, and Vince, who seems to have built a nice life outside of the family, is now feeling compelled to return. While Vince is never explicit about his initial motivations for returning (though he does speak later of trying to flee the house and then returning after a vision, in which he looks at himself and sees only his ancestors, showing him that his identity is inextricable from his family), it seems like he is beginning to think about creating a family of his own and wants his girlfriend to meet his family first. This shows the weight of family and the past on the characters in the play. Their lives are all stunted by their familial relationships and by the burden of past familial dramas that none of them can forget. Vince shows this most explicitly, as when he is introduced he seems like a functional, normal person, and by the end, after just a day with his family, his behavior becomes violent, manipulative, and erratic. 

We had a baby. He did. Dodge did. Could pick it up with one hand. Put it in the other. Little baby. Dodge killed it… Dodge drowned it… Never told Halie. Never told anybody. Just drowned it… Nobody could find it. Just disappeared. Cops looked for it. Neighbors. Nobody could find it… Finally everybody just gave up. Just stopped looking. Everybody had a different answer. Kidnap. Murder. Accident. Some kind of accident.

Related Characters: Tilden (speaker), Dodge, Halie, Shelly, The Baby / Buried Child
Page Number: 78
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the first reference to the buried child that is an outright admission rather than a veiled comment intended to harm or silence another family member. Throughout the play, Tilden seems to have a need to exhume the secret (and the literal corpse) more than any other character, so it makes sense that he would be the one to first confess the secret to Shelly. 

The opening of this passage shows how the family secret has warped everyone's sense of the past and of truth. Tilden, who is the biological father of the child, seems confused about to whom the child belongs. Tilden is capable of identifying that an awful thing has occurred, and he provides some specifics, but he balks at admitting that his own incestuous involvement with Halie produced the child. Tilden also, in his claim that nobody could find the body and nobody had an answer for why it was gone, speaks to the swirl of misinformation and trauma surrounding the family having kept this a secret for so long. What is missing for them is both a literal body and also a truth; without both of these, the family cannot move on.

Yeah, he used to be a big deal. Wore lettermen’s sweaters. Had medals hanging all around his neck. Real purty. Big deal. This one too. You’d never think it to look at him would ya? All bony and wasted away.

Related Characters: Bradley (speaker), Dodge, Tilden, Shelly
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:

Bradley (who, in a typical confusion of identities between family members, believes Shelly is with Tilden instead of Vince) is in this passage insulting Tilden in front of both Shelly and Tilden, in an effort to shame Tilden and assert Bradley's own power. This insult plays on the expectations of the American Dream, that the football star should turn out to be a successful adult. Bradley mockingly plays up Tilden's past in order to make it seem even more shameful that he has failed to live up to his youthful promise as an adult. This is an example of the ways in which family members in the play use distorted versions of the past to manipulate and hurt each other, and it also shows the dysfunctional dynamic between brothers. Instead of helping one another find the strength to care for their parents, the brothers are consumed by a bitter competition to assert themselves as the more powerful member of the family. Ironically, this competition seems to drain both of them of their ability to behave normally, making them seem weaker and more erratic rather than dominant. 

Hey! Missus. Don’t talk to me like that. Don’t talk to me in that tone a’ voice. There was a time when I had to take that tone a’ voice from pretty near everyone. Him, for one! Him and that half brain that just ran outa’ here. They don’t talk to me like that now. Not any more. Everything’s turned around now. Full circle. Isn’t that funny?

Related Characters: Bradley (speaker), Dodge, Tilden, Shelly
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

More than any other character, Bradley is obsessed with having power over his family members. We see this, for example, in his treatment of Tilden, and in his penchant for violently shaving Dodge's head while he is sleeping. In this passage we get a glimpse of what might have bred Bradley's violence; it seems that Bradley, as the weakest brother (due to his disability), was pushed around as a child, particularly by his brother and father. For Bradley, then, avenging the wrongs of the past is a primary motivation for his character. This is not unlike his other family members, though which past each one is avenging varies.

Through Bradley's character, Shepard is pointing the audience towards an understanding that cruelty begets cruelty, and that family dysfunction propagates itself through generations if issues are not resolved in the open and people are not held accountable for their behavior. Shepard seems to be saying (via Bradley) that a family is a structure that can easily descend into chaos once its members feel divided from one another by something like cruelty or a family secret.

Act 3 Quotes

Dodge: You forgot? Whose did you think this house was?

Shelly: Mine. I know it’s not mine but I had this feeling.

Dodge: What feeling?

Shelly: The feeling that nobody lives here but me. I mean everybody’s gone. You’re here, but it doesn’t seem like you’re supposed to be. Doesn’t seem like he’s supposed to be either. I don’t know what it is. It’s the house or something. Something familiar. Like I know my way around here. Did you ever get that feeling?

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Shelly (speaker), Bradley
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

It's in this passage that the readers get a sense that Shelly is being sucked into the family's logic. She is experiencing the same eerie inability to recognize what is around her, mistaking the family's house for her own. This passage, and the conversation that surrounds it, is another indictment of the American dream in which Shelly seems to have trouble reconciling the idyllic farmhouse with the haunted and bitter family that resides there. Her statement that the house feels familiar to her, though nobody seems to belong there except for her, can be read as a statement about the betrayal of the American Dream. She cannot imagine that a family this dysfunctional can be keeping up appearances, maintaining their classic American house, putting photographs and crosses up on the walls, while ripping each other apart behind closed doors. If the farmhouse represents the American Dream, then Shepard is telling us that it is hollow, that it is all surfaces, and that those surfaces conceal a dark interior.

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.

We can’t not believe in something. We can’t stop believing. We just end up dying if we stop. Just end up dead.

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Dodge, Father Dewis
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

This statement is, in a somewhat twisted way, Halie's attempt at justifying her consuming nostalgia and her revisionist memories. She refers to Dodge as somebody who is dead because he stopped believing in anything. Though Dodge is not wholly honest about the family's past, he is certainly more up front than Halie about his children's failures and about the existence of the buried child. In this way, Halie is indicating that Dodge, by refusing to believe her manipulated narratives about family and their past, has stopped believing in anything, and she implies that perhaps she finds her life force and happiness from her delusions. This is somewhat heartbreaking, as Halie may gain a sense of haughtiness from her bizarre sense of the family's past, but she does not seem to find happiness and compassion in it; she is clearly as petty and cruel as any other character in the play. It is also important that this statement is framed in the context of religion. In a religious context, finding something to believe in or something to give life a purpose generally comes with a practice of humility, truth-seeking, and kindness. For Halie, though, the thing she believes in actually makes her more isolated and cruel than she likely would have been if she were willing to face the truth. This shows Halie's perverse sense of religion and the kinds of rituals that give life meaning.

Don’t come near me! Don’t anyone come near me. I don’t need any words from you. I’m not threatening anybody. I don’t even know what I’m doing here. You all say you don’t remember Vince, okay, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s Vince that’s crazy. Maybe he’s made this whole family thing up. I don’t even care anymore. I was just coming along for the ride. I thought it’d be a nice gesture. Besides, I was curious. He made all of you sound familiar to me. Every one of you. For every name, I had an image. Every time he’d tell me a name, I’d see the person. In fact, each of you was so clear in my mind that I actually believed it was you. I really believed that when I walked through that door that the people who lived here would turn out to be the same people in my imagination. Real people. People with faces. But I don’t recognize any of you. Not one. Not even the slightest resemblance.

Related Characters: Shelly (speaker), Dodge, Halie, Bradley, Vince
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

Shelly makes this speech at a point in the play when her behavior has dramatically shifted. While she came to the house as a playful and rather timid person, after spending a day with the family she has become assertive, aggressive, and even violent. In the scene leading up to this she has shouted, hurled a cup against the wall to attract attention, and kidnapped Bradley's false leg. Though her behavior has begun to mirror the chaos of the family, she is the one character that doesn't drift towards its illusions. Shelly knows that something is deeply wrong, and she begins to call them out on it here, which will lead to her extracting the full story of the buried child.

Shelly has been, throughout the play, an embodiment of disillusionment with the American Dream, and in this speech she explains to the family that they are nothing like the people she thought they would be. This is an extrapolation of the theme that American expectations about family life are unrealistic and even toxic. The theme of the American Dream is inextricable from the family's chaos; the family dynamic Shepard portrays is an example of the brew of disappointment and delusion (from Halie in particular) the myth of the American Dream can produce.

…Halie had this kid. This baby boy. She had it. I let her have it on her own. All the other boys I had had the best doctors, best nurses, everything. This one I let her have by herself. This one hurt real bad. Almost killed her, but she had it anyway. It lived, see. It lived. It wanted to grow up in this family. It wanted to be just like us. It wanted to be part of us. It wanted to pretend that I was its father. She wanted me to believe in it. Even when everyone around us knew. Everyone. All our boys knew. Tilden knew… I killed it. I drowned it. Just like the runt of a litter. Just drowned it.

Related Characters: Dodge (speaker), Halie, Tilden, Shelly, The Baby / Buried Child
Page Number: 109-110
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the climax of the play, in which Dodge tells Shelly the story of the buried child. Dodge seems to do this in part because Shelly has goaded him into it, and in part because he wants to shock Shelly. He seems to relish it when she tells him she isn't sure if she wants to know, and the thought of scaring her seems to push him ultimately into revealing the secret. In Dodge's recounting he does not omit his own cruelty--he dwells on it, in fact, talking about how he allowed Halie to almost die having her incestuous child without doctors. This shows the ways in which Dodge has partly brought about the family's downfall by being so vengeful and possessive. He goes on to blame Tilden's love for the child for Dodge's decision to kill it, stating that "it made everything we'd accomplished look like nothing." This is another instance of Shepard revealing the toxicity of the American Dream, in which the ideal of the perfect nuclear family of successful parents and children leads to more dysfunction than if people had honest expectations about family life. Dodge implies that he killed the child because it was the one thing he felt didn't fit in with their perfect life (which seems to be an idealized memory in itself). Ironically, this murder, more than anything else (like the birth of the child itself), is what actually throws the family into chaos.

Good hard rain. Takes everything straight down deep to the roots. The rest takes care of itself. You can’t force a thing to grow. You can’t interfere with it. It’s all hidden. It’s all unseen. You just gotta wait til it pops up out of the ground. Tiny little shoot. Tiny little white shoot. All hairy and fragile. Strong though. Strong enough to break the earth even. It’s a miracle, Dodge. I’ve never seen a crop like this in my whole life. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s the sun.

Related Characters: Halie (speaker), Dodge
Related Symbols: Rain, Vegetables
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the passage that concludes the play, and, for a work of such dark and fatalistic themes, it is a surprisingly optimistic conclusion. By this point the family secret is out in the open (partially marked by each family member's sudden ability to see the vegetables growing in the backyard). As Halie speaks this monologue, Tilden comes onstage carrying the bones of the buried child, which he has apparently dug up from the yard. Though it is grotesque imagery, the return of the body to the house symbolizes a restoration of honesty for the family, and the end of a secret that has created torment and suffering for a long time. That Halie, the character most wedded to the family's illusions about itself, gives this optimistic monologue about life and rebirth suggests to the audience that the family is benefiting from having finally dealt with the trauma of their past. 

Throughout the play the vegetables growing in the yard have represented the family's secrets, and the rain has represented the relentless pressure to bring the secrets into the open. With the sun shining and the family realizing that the yard is fertile once again, the audience is left to conclude that some real progress has been made. 

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Dodge Character Timeline in Buried Child

The timeline below shows where the character Dodge 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
On a rainy day in rural Illinois in 1978, Dodge, a sickly man in his late seventies, sits on the couch in the living room... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Dodge attempts to suppress a cough, but his wife Halie hears him, and she calls to... (full context)
Religion Theme Icon
Halie again tells Dodge to take a pill for his cough. She wonders aloud whether taking medicine is the... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Halie advises Dodge not to watch any television programs that will get him excited, such as horse racing,... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Halie lets Dodge know that she is going out to meet the minister Father Dewis for lunch, and... (full context)
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...wet with rain and holding an armful of freshly picked corn. He simply stares at Dodge as Dodge’s coughing fit subsides. Dodge asks Tilden where he got the corn, and Tilden... (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
Dodge commands Tilden to return the corn to where he found out, but instead Tilden dumps... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
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Tilden returns with a chair and pail and begins to husk the corn. Dodge asks Tilden what his plans are for the future, but says that he’s not worried... (full context)
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From upstairs, Halie calls out to Dodge that Tilden should not be drinking anything. Unaware that Tilden can hear, Halie enters into... (full context)
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Dodge reprimands Halie for upsetting Tilden, but Halie warns the men that they’d better clean up... (full context)
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Tilden scolds Dodge for his comments about the back yard, but Dodge refuses to apologize or discuss the... (full context)
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As Tilden begins to head out back again—against Halie and Dodge’s wishes—Dodge has another violent coughing fit. Tilden gets him some water, and Dodge takes a... (full context)
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Dodge falls asleep. Tilden steals Dodge’s hidden whiskey, and then covers the sleeping Dodge with the... (full context)
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...His left leg is a wooden prosthetic, and he walks with a limp. He notices Dodge on the couch under the mess of corn husks. Bradley laboriously kneels beside Dodge, violently... (full context)
Act 2
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...the rain continues. The mess from act one is gone from the living room, and Dodge is asleep on the sofa, his scalp bleeding from the aggressively short haircut. Vince, Tilden’s... (full context)
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...young couple enters, and Vince goes upstairs to see if anyone is home. Shelly notices Dodge on the couch, and he wakes up and startles her. While Vince is upstairs looking... (full context)
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Vince comes downstairs, but Dodge is confused and does not recognize him. When Vince asks after Halie, Dodge responds by... (full context)
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Dodge starts to comment on Shelly’s physical appearance and she grows more frightened, begging Vince to... (full context)
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...situation, Shelly offers to take the carrots from Tilden and begins to help peel them. Dodge asks Vince to get him a new bottle of alcohol, and Shelly urges him to... (full context)
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While Vince makes various attempts to remind Dodge and Tilden of who he is, Dodge begs for alcohol and lasciviously comments on Shelly’s... (full context)
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...him for more information, Tilden reveals that there was a baby in the family, but Dodge drowned it, and no one knows where he put it. (full context)
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An agitated Dodge tries to get Tilden to stop telling Shelly this story, and he tries to stand... (full context)
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...great football player but is now a failure. Bradley says the same is true of Dodge. (full context)
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When Shelly offers to help Dodge, Bradley mocks her by saying that they should drown Dodge instead. Terrified, Shelly tells Bradley... (full context)
Act 3
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...shines into the living room. Bradley sleeps on the couch, his prosthetic leg detached nearby. Dodge sits against the television, visibly weak, wearing his cap and Shelly’s coat. (full context)
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Shelly enters cheerily from the kitchen with a bowl of soup. She offers it to Dodge, but he refuses it, preoccupied with Vince’s prolonged absence and his own craving for a... (full context)
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Shelly believes Vince will return (at least to retrieve the saxophone he’s left), and Dodge mocks her optimism. Shelly turns her attention to the change in weather, and Dodge mocks... (full context)
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Shelly is shocked that Dodge would think of doing such a thing, but Dodge argues that he should not be... (full context)
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Shelly tells Dodge that she slept in Halie’s room, where she observed the family’s history in photos, as... (full context)
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As Dodge tries to deflect her questions, Shelly asks him about a photograph depicting the whole family... (full context)
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Dodge continues to defend himself and claims disinterest in the photos, until Shelly asks Dodge outright... (full context)
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Shelly and Dodge hear the sounds of Halie and Father Dewis on the porch. Dodge begs Shelly to... (full context)
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...tries to clean up in the living room by taking the fur coat off of Dodge and covering the prosthetic leg with it. When Dodge protests, Halie whips the blanket off... (full context)
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...Halie tries to find a bottle of whiskey, and reaches into Dewis’ pockets intimately as Dodge watches. Halie says that the roses that Father Dewis gave her wash away the smell... (full context)
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Halie finds the whiskey and drinks it in front of Dodge as she claims that a statue of Ansel, holding a basketball and rifle, will be... (full context)
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...is important to believe in certain things, and she twists his words to rail against Dodge as an example of a person driven mad by lack of values. She throws a... (full context)
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...continues to jog her memory, Halie suddenly becomes worried about Tilden’s whereabouts. Halie yells at Dodge for allowing Tilden to leave. Meanwhile Dodge begs for alcohol, Shelly yells at Halie to... (full context)
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As Halie laments the state of the family, Bradley steals the blanket back from Dodge, causing a ruckus. In a rage, Shelly takes the bowl of soup that she tried... (full context)
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...gruesome secret. Bradley, Halie, and Dewis command Shelly to stop interfering in their business, but Dodge finally relents and decides to tell Shelly the truth. (full context)
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Despite protestations from Halie and Bradley, Dodge recounts how Halie had a baby, and apparently the child was Tilden’s. Tilden was close... (full context)
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...stupor. Vince takes empty liquor bottles from a paper bag and smashes them while singing. Dodge and Halie finally seem to recognize him as their grandson, but in his drunken state... (full context)
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...the house through a screen porch window while Shelly goes out onto the screen porch. Dodge then begins to deliver his last will and testament. While Dodge delivers his speech, Vince... (full context)
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Dodge declares that the house will go to Vince, the tools will go to Tilden, and... (full context)
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Vince notices that Dodge has silently died. He covers Dodge in the blanket and places the roses on his... (full context)
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From upstairs, we hear Halie calling out for Dodge, telling him that Tilden was right, and that the field is full of vegetables. Tilden... (full context)