THE GREAT DIVIDE

A synopsis of the play by William Vaughn Moody

This article was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 115.

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RUTH JORDAN and her brother, Phil, have invested what little remains of her mother's wealth in a ranch in southern Arizona. One night when she is unavoidably left alone three half drunk men force their way into the cabin. They are about to throw dice for possession of the girl, when she appeals to the most likely looking of the lot to save her, promising in return to marry him and go away with him that night.

Stephen Ghent buys off the Mexican with a string of gold nuggets and shoots it out with "Shorty," the remaining claimant. Ruth leaves a note indicating that she has gone of her own free will with the man of her choice. She asks them not to search for her. Ruth and Steve are married by a justice and go to his prospector's cabin high up on the rim of the canyon.

During the months that follow Steve becomes half-owner of one of the fabulously rich mines in the West. He arranges to build a wonderful house as a surprise for Ruth. She, meanwhile, has been weaving baskets and making rugs which she sells to tourists at the hotel. By this means she is earning enough money to buy back the string of nuggets which her husband had paid for her.

She is seen at the hotel and recognized by Phil, Polly, his wife, and a friend, Winthrop Newbury. When they seek her out she pretends perfect happiness and claims the weaving is merely her hobby. She shows them the plans for the new house and Steve believes that at last she has really capitulated. As soon as the others go, however, her coldness returns. She asks Steve to let her buy back her freedom with the nuggets she has finally redeemed, not for her own sake but so that the child that is about to be born can be brought up in the more suitable atmosphere of Boston.

Steve consents, but he secretly follows her to Boston at the risk of being cheated out of his half of the mine. In Boston he wins over Mrs. Jordan and Polly, perhaps by saving the homestead from foreclosure. At last they reveal his presence to Ruth. After considerable internal struggle her love for Steve conquers her feeling that they should both do penance for the unconventional circumstances of their marriage. She is finally convinced that it is only the last remnants of her Puritan heritage that have been fighting her desire for happiness, and that Steve has been right from the beginning.

The Great Divide was first produced on October 3, 1906, at the Princess Theater, New York, with Margaret Anglin. The London production premiered on September 25, 1909, at the Adelphi Theatre and featured Edith Wynne Mathison.

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