Buried Child

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Father Dewis Character Analysis

A protestant minister in his sixties. Halie speaks highly of him in act one, but when we meet him in act three, he is drunk, ineffectual, and lecherous. It’s implied that he’s having an affair with Halie, and there is a suggestion that the faults of his character suggest faults with religion more generally.

Father Dewis Quotes in Buried Child

The Buried Child quotes below are all either spoken by Father Dewis or refer to Father Dewis. 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 3 Quotes

Well, prayerfully, God only hears what he wants to. That’s just between you and me of course. In our heart of hearts we know we’re every bit as wicked as the Catholics.

Related Characters: Father Dewis (speaker), Halie
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:

In this passage, Father Dewis comes into the house with Halie, clearly drunk in the middle of the day after having committed adultery with her. He then proceeds to say that he is not worried about being punished because "God only hears what he wants to," a statement that undermines the very foundation of the faith that Father Dewis claims to represent. This quotation hearkens back to Halie's statement about how Dodge could take the pain pills even though they might not be Christian, because there are things that even ministers can't answer (there is little question now as to why she might think this, or why she might have such a casual attitude towards her faith). The statement also reminds us of Halie's prejudiced rant against Catholics when she blames them for Ansel's death. Father Dewis, it seems, has unintentionally pointed out Halie's hypocrisy by admitting that they are "every bit as wicked as the Catholics." There is not a single character in the story that displays genuine faith, and because of that, religion, like the American Dream, is presented as something hollow, a pretense that characters maintain because it is socially acceptable. 

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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.

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Father Dewis Character Timeline in Buried Child

The timeline below shows where the character Father Dewis 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
Religion Theme Icon
Halie lets Dodge know that she is going out to meet the minister Father Dewis for lunch, and that their son Bradley will be coming over later to cut Dodge’s... (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
Halie, completely absorbed in her story, explains that Father Dewis wants to recommend to the city council that Ansel be commemorated with a statue. She... (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
...not to go out back again, and then she exits for her lunch with Father Dewis, telling the men she’ll be back soon. (full context)
Act 3
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Shelly and Dodge hear the sounds of Halie and Father Dewis on the porch. Dodge begs Shelly to stay and protect him. He hides under the... (full context)
Religion Theme Icon
Father Dewis jokes that deep down, he and Halie know they are “every bit as wicked as... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Halie asks Father Dewis, who is at a loss for words, for advice on how to handle the bizarre... (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
Religion Theme Icon
...word in, Halie continues to drink and lament the deterioration of society and its values. Dewis reminds Halie that it is important to believe in certain things, and she twists his... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
...prosthetic leg and taunts Bradley with it. Bradley covers himself in the blanket and whimpers. Dewis tries to get Shelly to return the leg, but proves useless. (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
...not to, and Shelly chides the family for keeping their gruesome secret. Bradley, Halie, and Dewis command Shelly to stop interfering in their business, but Dodge finally relents and decides to... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Vince’s drunken behavior continues on the porch, and when Halie asks Dewis for help, Dewis says that he’s outside of his parish. Dewis invites Halie upstairs. She... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
...Vince keeps the prosthetic leg away from a whimpering Bradley, and goes to smell Father Dewis’ roses. (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
As Vince continues to taunt Bradley with the leg, Father Dewis comes down the stairs. Vince throws the leg out of the room, and Bradley crawls... (full context)