***CAUTION – SPOILERS ARE CONTAINED***
I just read this play for a theatre class paper, and I absolutely have to say something about it.
Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias was a play that I thought, at first, was going to be not much more than a bunch of women fulfilling the literary stereotype of not talking about nothing substantial, like their relationships with men and what kind of makeup to use.
Turns out I was severely wrong.
The story slowly built up to the ultimate bombshell when Shelby, based off Harling’s sister, died of kidney failure due to Diabetes. I did not expect Shelby to actually bite the bullet. There were indicators of her failing health throughout Act II, but I was hopeful it wouldn’t amount to anything terminal. This was one of the turn of events that changed my perception of the seemingly frivolous play. The reaction of M’Lynn (Shelby’s mother) after the service shook me to the core. She screamed about how she was always ready to be the first one to go. It was stuffed with emotional fury at the injustice about the world. Her mourning made me reflect on the reality of death and how it can come to anyone. I also related to Shelby’s determination to set her own path from her mother and define her independence’s boundaries. Her doctor’s advised her against having children because of her body’s fragility, yet she said she would rather have a few moments of happiness than a lifetime of nothing special. I think what she did was really brave. She risked everything, literally, just to have everything she could possibly get out of life. Not many people would think that’s worth it or have the guts to go out on a limb. The bright side of things, which is what the women of Magnolias teach us to find, is that, though Shelby has gone, she has left a tiny piece of her immortal memory in the form of her son. In a way, she will never be forgotten.
Steel Magnolias is a play that shows the lives of six women in the small town south. It shows that just because they spend much of their time in a beauty salon does not mean they are incapable of deep, meaningful discussion and handle tragedy in a way that everyone can relate to. This play demonstrates comedy and sadness, where the women find the comfort in friends in face of loss. It’s an easy read and a great watch. So go out and experience the thrill, heart-warming, and spine chilling production that is Steel Magnolias.