27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Director’s Note by Lindsey Neville


      When we hear of victims of domestic abuse, we are quick to offer support, but rarely think in depth about what they went through during the relationship. A common response is “why didn’t she just leave?” But it’s not that simple. It’s never that simple. There is so much more to these situations than the simple reports we hear of abusers being discovered and arrested. There is fear and helplessness caused by a slew of manipulation tactics. There is an overall sensation of being... trapped.

      27 Wagons Full of Cotton by Tennessee Williams tells the story of a woman named Flora who is trapped. In the summer of 1936, The Great Depression was in full swing, temperatures in multiple states reached record highs, Mississippi cotton plantations were still recovering from the Boll Weevil infestation of the 20s, and communism was becoming an increasing threat. Given these circumstances, prevention of domestic violence and accessibility to resources for those affected by it were not a priority. Flora’s husband, Jake, knows that she has a lack of resources both economically (as a woman during the great depression) and socially (as an overweight woman at a time when thinner was almost always better). Knowing this, he is able to keep her under his control by both emotionally and physically abusing her in twisted hopes of creating the perfect life for himself and his baby-doll wife.

      When Jake’s cotton gin isn’t successful, he decides to burn down the gin of the most successful plantation in the area to gain their business. To keep this business and avoid the police, he appeases the gin owner, Mr. Vicarro, by trading his most prized possession: his wife. Despite widespread warnings that the majority of rapes are committed by someone known by the victim, sexual assault is often still envisioned as a scary story where a bad guy sneaks up out of nowhere, something to which many young people respond “that’d never happen to me.”

Because of the MeToo movement, the conversation is changing and there is more awareness that such events often include substance use, manipulation, and/or coercion. It is becoming better known that victims of both sexual assault and domestic abuse are not mere damsels in distress, but survivors who have experienced unimaginable deception and pain, and who posses incredible strength. Every survivor has a story- and this is Flora’s.