The Happy Journey

Thornton Wilder

The Happy Journey

“The Happy Journey” written by Thornton Wilder, describes a simple journey of the Kirby family from their home to Camden, to visit the family’s married daughter Beulah. Beulah was sick while giving birth to a dead child and had to undergo an operation.

Before they begin the journey, Ma Kate Kirby advises her 13-year-old son Arthur to put on a hat and warns Caroline not to use any cosmetics. Kirby family has kept a good relationship with their neighbors. They help each other in need. Ma Kirby asks about the health of the baby of her neighbor Mrs. Schwartz and also asks her to feed her cat during her absence. She tells her to use anything she needs by opening the door. Mr. Schwartz readily accepts it. When another neighbor Mrs. Hobmeyer comes Ma Kirby asks Caroline to greet her. Mrs. Hobmeyer does not beat the rug because she does not want to choke the Kirby family. Before they leave the neighbors greet them best wishes.

Arthur requests his father not to drive by the school because he is afraid that his teacher may scold him. But mother Kirby thinks that she has the right to take her children anywhere she likes. On the way, they see a funeral procession, and father Elmer takes off his hat. Ma Kirby asks Arthur to take his hat off as sympathy to the dead ones. She even becomes philosophical and says that everyone has to die one day.

They see various advertisement billboards– for suits, suspenders, spaghetti, and cigarettes. Arthur asks permission for taking a paper route with the Newark Daily Post but Ma Kirby does not like it because for her family and health is more important than money. Arthur speaks disrespectfully about God, this makes her very angry. Around New Brunswick, they see a collie dog and Ma Kirby pities the rather weak dog. On the gas station, Ma Kirby talks with the young garage man and sympathies with him. They stop again to have hot dogs. At this time Arthur repents that he was wrong for making fun of God. Ma pardons him asks him to be good in words and deed. So, Arthur and Caroline start crying. They reach the house of Beulah and all are happy. Beulah eyes are filled with tears. She kisses her father and embraces him. She presents gifts to her brother and sister. Later Ma Kirby asks her daughter Beulah to lie down on the bed and take rest. Being a responsible mother, she goes to the kitchen and starts preparing food.

Ma Kirby is the main and strong character in this play. She is a loving mother, active, strict about dress and manners. She is happy and satisfied with her family. She thinks that the place where her family lives is the best place in the world for her. She wants her children to be honest in deeds and manners. She is a thoughtful, determined and kind person.

Important Questions:

  • Give an account of the people and places the Kirby family see during their happy journey.
  • Describe the Kirby family and its relationship with neighbors.
  • Why do Arthur and Caroline cry before they eat hot dogs?
  • Why does Caroline complain about Arthur?
  • What traits of the character of an older woman is reflected when Ma Kirby asks Beulah to lie down and shut her eyes for ten minutes?

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