In the beginning, before we have even seen Halie or met Tilden, Halie and Dodge have a conversation from different rooms about their son. While Halie has a lot of faith in Tilden, Dodge sees him as a stunted and profoundly dependent child, someone who cannot take care of himself, let alone them.
"Tilden was an All-American, don’t forget. Don’t forget that. Fullback. Or quarterback. I forget which."
Halie talks glowingly about her son, Tilden, remembering his high school football glory days. Even though she cannot remember his position, she remembers that he was an excellent athlete and a popular student, which she tries to use to counteract Dodge's insistence that Tilden is helpless as an adult.
"Same as being alone. No different. Same as if they’d all died."
Halie resents her children for not being able to take care of themselves or their parents. Tilden was so affected by the events in his past that he has become mentally disturbed, and Bradley lost one of his legs during a logging accident and so he was barely able to take care of himself after that. She compares her living children to her beloved dead son, Ansel, suggesting that she and Dodge are all alone in the world.
Vince: Shelly, look, I just don't wanna go in there with you giggling your head off. They might think something's wrong with you.
Shelly: There is.
Vince: There is not!
Shelly: Something's definitely wrong with me.
Vince: There is not!
Shelly: There's something wrong with you too.
Vince: There's nothing wrong with me either!
As they go into Vince's grandparents' home, Shelly cannot stop laughing about how "American" it all is. Vince begs her to try and keep it together and make a good impression, worried that his family will think there is something wrong with her, but she playfully suggests that there is something wrong with both of them.
Stop calling me Grandpa will ya'! It's sickening. "Grandpa." I'm nobody's Grandpa!"
When Vince meets Dodge, he keeps calling him "Grandpa," but Dodge does not take kindly to this name. He insists that he has no grandchildren and does not recognize Vince, which creates some confusion, as Vince is sure that Dodge is definitely his grandfather.
"He's the only one who knows where it's buried. The only one. Like a secret buried treasure."
After telling Shelly about the fact that Dodge killed one of his children, Tilden suggests that no one even knows where the child is buried, as Dodge kept it a secret. This is the first reference to the "buried child" in the play.
"I was gonna run last night. I was gonna run and keep right on running. Clear to the Iowa border. I drove all night with the windows open. The old man's two bucks flapping right on the seat beside me. It never stopped raining the whole time. Never stopped once. I could see myself in the windshield. My face. My eyes. I studied my face. Studied everything about it as though I was looking at another man. As though I could see his whole race behind him. Like a mummy's face. I saw him dead and alive at the same time. In the same breath. In the windshield I watched him breathe as though he was frozen in time and every breath marked him. Marked him forever without him knowing. And then his face changed. His face became his father's face. Same bones. Same eyes. Same nose. Same breath. And his father's face changed to his grandfather's face. And it went on like that. Changing. Clear on back to faces I'd never seen before but still recognized. Still recognized the bones underneath. Same eyes. Same mouth. Same breath. I followed my family clear into Iowa. Every last one. Straight into the corn belt and further. Straight back as far as they'd take me. Then it all dissolved. Everything dissolved. Just like that. And that two bucks kept right on flapping on the seat beside me."
Vince delivers this monologue in the third act of the play. He explains that he left the previous evening intending to drive forever and never look back, but when he caught his reflection in the windshield, he could see the faces of his father and grandfather, and this led to his change of heart. This monologue represents the fact that Vince is magnetically pulled towards his family, try though as he might to escape from it.
"It made everything we'd accomplished look like it was nothin'. Everything was canceled out by this one mistake."
As he tells the story of Tilden and Halie's love child, Dodge explains that the birth of the child was so devastating because it undid the beautiful family they already had, created cracks in the family structure that could not be undone.
"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…"
This is what Shelly says to Dodge in Act 2 to try and explain to him why they came to the house. In spite of the fact that no one seems to recognize Vince, Shelly wants to communicate that Vince is looking to connect with his family members, while also differentiating herself from this desire, suggesting she does not have that kind of relationship with her family.
"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."
While Halie is upstairs at the end of Act 3, she looks out the window at the suddenly very fertile garden and talks about the nature of growth and the cycle of life. She suggests that even though small seeds are vulnerable and delicate in many ways, they are also very strong, and can generate new life that pushes through the ground.
Buried Child Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Buried Child is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.