Buried Child

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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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…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:

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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:

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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
Rituals Theme Icon
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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
From upstairs, Halie calls out to Dodge that Tilden should not be drinking anything. Unaware that Tilden can hear, Halie enters into... (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 reprimands Halie for upsetting Tilden, but Halie warns the men that they’d better clean up... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Tilden scolds Dodge for his comments about the back yard, but Dodge refuses to apologize or discuss the... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Dodge falls asleep. Tilden steals Dodge’s hidden whiskey, and then covers the sleeping Dodge with the... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...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
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
...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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
...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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Vince comes downstairs, but Dodge is confused and does not recognize him. When Vince asks after Halie, Dodge responds by... (full context)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
Dodge starts to comment on Shelly’s physical appearance and she grows more frightened, begging Vince to... (full context)
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
...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)
Family and Its Demise Theme Icon
Failure and the American Dream Theme Icon
The Presence of the Past Theme Icon
Rituals Theme Icon
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)