Three Generations of Imbeciles by Rick Hodges

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


The lights come up to reveal a looming barrister's podium at center stage.

LINETTE enters, leading JOYCE by the hand.

LINETTE: Come on, Joyce, we're running late. You need to get ready
faster in the morning. We talked about that, didn't we? I know I
told you to make a favorable impression as a lady and fix your hair
right, but a lady makes an impression by being punctual too.

JOYCE: Miss Linette, why are we here again?

LINETTE: We're here to see the doctor. I've told you that twice

JOYCE: But I forget things sometimes.

LINETTE: That's alright, I forget things sometimes too. Stand up
straight. (They both stand facing the audience.) That's why the
doctors want to see you, Joyce-because your mind is off a little.

JOYCE: My momma said my mind ain't off, I'm just thinkin' too
much all the time.

LINETTE: Well, let's listen to what the doctor thinks. And a lady
doesn't display her mind by using words like "ain't," which is
a word that isn't a word.

JOYCE: I know I cain't talk right, but all my people talk like

LINETTE: Well, then don't talk, dear. Come on. (She smoothes
Joyce's hair. Dr. Jennings appears behind the podium, also facing
the audience.)

DR. JENNINGS: Good afternoon, Miss Keogh. Thank you for coming. I know
you are busy over at the colony, so let's get right to work. I've
looked over the history, but I need to ask some questions.

LINETTE: Yes, Dr. Jennings, and Joyce and I have been talking about
her future plans and I think we may have a living situation that will
suit her, so I-

DR. JENNINGS: I need to ask her some questions before we talk about
the disposition of this case. (to Joyce:) Young lady, can you tell me
when you were born? (waits for answer) Are you mute?

JOYCE: (to Linette) You said don't talk.

LINETTE: You can answer his questions, Joyce.

JOYCE: I was born on Tuesday.

DR. JENNINGS: You were born yesterday?

JOYCE: No! Tuesday in 1921.

DR. JENNINGS: What date?

JOYCE: I don't know, but it was January. We didn't have birthdays
in our house.


JOYCE: But when I have babies, I'll write down the birthdays, and
every year we can have parties and such, with cake.

DR. JENNINGS:(he begins writing her responses on paper) And where were
you born?

JOYCE: In the holler.

DR. JENNINGS: Which hollow? What was the name of the hollow?

JOYCE: That's what its name is, the holler.

DR. JENNINGS: There are more than one hollow in Virginia.

JOYCE: It was the only holler with our house in it, so it didn't
need a name.

DR. JENNINGS: Let's move on. Can you see the pictures of the birds
on the wall behind me?

JOYCE: Yes sir.

DR. JENNINGS: How many do you see?

JOYCE: Uh, four, five, six, seven.

DR. JENNINGS: And can you spell "bird"?

JOYCE: It starts with a "B."

DR. JENNINGS: Is that all?

JOYCE: I can say it, but I ain't much with words.

DR. JENNINGS: Did you know your father?

JOYCE: No. But he died.

DR. JENNINGS: But you know who he was. You know his name.

JOYCE: Uh-huh. Mr. McNally was his name, and that's my name, except
I'm Miss McNally.

DR. JENNINGS: I'm aware of that. Was your father mentally

JOYCE: I don't…

LINETTE: No, I don't believe so.

DR. JENNINGS: We've heard otherwise. Was your mother mentally
defective or feeble-minded?

JOYCE: No. My Momma loved me and raised me right. She died too. Just
last year. That's why I had to go live with Miss Linette. She takes
care of me almost like Momma did.

DR. JENNINGS: Yes. And what about your father's mother? We have
evidence that she was also feeble-minded, like your father.

JOYCE: I didn't know her neither.

DR. JENNINGS: Certainly. Tell me, what state do we live in?

JOYCE: Virginia.

DR. JENNINGS: I gave that one away earlier. And how many states are
there in the union? (waits for answer)

LINETTE: Joyce? How many?

DR. JENNINGS: The subject has no response. Can you tell me what
holiday we just celebrated last Sunday?

JOYCE: Easter.

LINETTE: That's right.

DR. JENNINGS: And can you tell me why we celebrate Easter?

JOYCE: Easter is because of rabbits and colored eggs, and our Savior

DR. JENNINGS: What's that mean, that our Savior rose?

JOYCE: Jesus. And rabbits.

DR. JENNINGS. Alright, this examination confirms the opinion of the
full panel, which decided that the subject is an excellent candidate
for a new program authorized by state law that would relieve her of
the burdens of her class, and relieve the burden on society at the
same time.

LINETTE: Dr. Jennings, I'm not sure you have all the information
that you might need.

DR. JENNINGS: Miss Keogh, this is a matter for the medical committee,
and I assure you that we have all the information we need. We've
conducted a full review of her genetic history, and it indicates an
urgent need to address the heritable defects present in her profile.

LINETTE: I'm not sure Joyce is quite as defective as you might
think, Dr. Jennings. She's been with us at the poor farm for almost
a year now, and she's shown herself quite capable of functioning at
an adequate mental level. She's just a teenage girl from way up in
the mountains.

JOYCE: I ain't no burden, I work for everything I eat.

DR. JENNINGS: I'm sure you do dear. (To LINETTE:) She is the third
generation of offspring to have the chance to demonstrate normal
mental functioning, but she is just as likely to fail as her ancestors
did. Mental capacity manifests itself in achievement and moral
behavior, and her heritage demonstrates poor performance in both. She
is a young woman with defective genes which render her unable to
exercise the moral restraint necessary to keep her from passing them
on, and in that sense she needs our protection. And I'll remind you
that there is as much an issue of her behavior as her wits. Moral
turpitude, lackadaisical habits, dulled senses-all of these are
hallmarks of her breeding. Modern man is armed with the science that
can finally detect and root out these defective lines for the
improvement of the entire race. That is what is at stake here, Miss

LINETTE: I understand what you are saying, Dr. Jennings, and I know
you have a job to do, but I must respectfully disagree that Joyce is a
candidate for sterilization.

JOYCE: If'n you need me to work more, I can do it. I do washin'
and cleanin' at the poor farm, but I can do cookin' too. I ain't
aim to be no burden, sir.

DR. JENNINGS: The poor girl doesn't even understand what's going
on. She has hardly demonstrated anything to indicate she's not a
perfect candidate. The Commonwealth of Virginia has the opportunity to
end a defective genetic line right here, and I will not cede that
responsibility. Bring her next Tuesday at nine sharp.

LINETTE: If that's how you feel. (Pause.) But you need to know that
I have been talking to an attorney, and he feels that there is a case
for Joyce and that she ought to take it to court.

DR. JENNINGS. You mean some slick lawyer hired by you will take it to
court. Miss Keogh, she's hardly capable of understanding what
you're using her for. You'll only be gumming up the inevitable,
and doing Joyce and the people of Virginia a great disservice. But I
can't stop you. I hope your personal feelings aren't clouding your

LINETTE: Personal feelings? No, my interest is in Joyce, not any
personal feelings, Halsey.

The lights dim on DR. JENNINGS. JOYCE and LINETTE move SR.

LINETTE: Fix your hair, Joyce, we're in court again and you have to
look nice. We've come a long way and we can't miss this. Can you
believe it-Mr. Franklin got your case to go all the way to the
Supreme Court!

JOYCE: I can't believe it either. I never been to such a big place.
My momma took me to the movies afore the Depression came on, and it
was big. But this is bigger.

LINETTE: Remember what I told you, Joyce. When we go in, don't ask
me questions until I say it's okay.

JOYCE: Can we go shopping at the Greenmart again? I love my dress. I
ain't got but some nickels and such, no paper money, so I can't
buy nothin' like you buy, but I could get a soda with ice cream.

LINETTE: Let's try to listen to what the judges have to say first,

JOYCE: I don't mean to be talking too much, but my stomach talks
sometimes too. It says "Soda! Soda!" (She giggles.)

LINETTE: Remember, no questions until that man finishes talking.

JUDGE: (from off-stage) We have a decision in the appeal of McNally
versus the Commonwealth of Virginia. This court upholds the decision
of the lower courts and finds that no legal interest stands in the way
of the state in exercising its interest in preventing further genetic
defects from spreading among the populace. The state is free to cause
Joyce McNally to undergo surgery to render her no longer capable of
reproducing. This court finds her family history disturbing and
pitiful, given that she is the third to be allowed to come into this
world without the full complement of intelligence or character that
normal people know are necessary to function as a citizen with decent
morals and good judgment. She is not, as her case pleads, being
punished as if she committed a crime. Just as the state would rightly
hold someone with a communicable disease in quarantine or require
vaccination against such a disease, Virginia may take necessary
precautions to improve the welfare of all its citizens. It is better
for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate
offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility,
society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing
their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is
broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations
of imbeciles are enough.

JOYCE: Miss Linette, can I ask questions now?

LINETTE: Yes, Joyce.

JOYCE: Miss Linette, can we go to the Greenmart?

LINETTE: Yes, Joyce.

JOYCE: Good. I want a soda with ice cream. (In a flashback, she drops
to the floor as if playing like a child.) Momma, why cain't we have
ice cream like the Dodson boys? Them boys git ice cream every Sunday.
Them Dodson boys said they git ice cream for bein' good in church.
Momma, I'm good in church. I don't cough too much no more and I
sit in my seat and don't talk out loud when the preacher's
talkin'. Momma, if I bring in more corncobs for the fire, can I have
ice cream? (She stands.) Is it going to hurt when they cut me?

LINETTE: No, Joyce. They'll put a mask over your mouth and you'll
go to sleep. It won't hurt.

They move stage left. The lights go down and a single spotlight
illuminates them, revealing a surgical bed.

JOYCE: But this ain't the doctor's place. I thought we was going
to the doctor's place!

LINETTE: No, Joyce, remember, we're going to the hospital now. The
doctor's office and the courtrooms, that's all over now.

JOYCE: I'm scared! I don't want to get cut!

LINETTE: Just breathe like I showed you. (She cups her hands over
JOYCE's mouth and nose.) Remember? They'll put a mask over your
face, and it will make you go to sleep. Just relax and breathe. Relax
and breathe.

JOYCE: But I want to have babies! I want to have babies! I want to
have babies!!

LINETTE: I know, sweetie. Relax and breathe. Relax and breathe. Relax
and breathe.

JOYCE begins to calm down and the lies down, falling into sleep. As
LINETTE holds JOYCE's head in her hands, DR. JENNINGS in a surgical
mask and gown, converges on her as the lights slowly fade

Script Finder

Male Roles:

Female Roles:

Browse Library

About Stageplays

Stageplays offers you the largest collection of Plays & Musicals in the world.

Based in the UK and the USA, we’ve been serving the online theatre community since the last century. We’re primarily a family-run business and several of us also work in professional theatre.

But we’re all passionate about theatre and we all work hard to share that passion with you and the world’s online community.

Subscribe to our theatre newsletter

We'll email you regular details of new plays and half-price special offers on a broad range of theatre titles.


We can deliver any play in print to any country in the world - and we ship from both the US and the UK.

© 2010 - 2024 Stageplays, Inc.