“Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to” (John Ed Pearce). Janice was forced to leave her birth mother’s house 35 years ago and left again intentionally last year due to her overwhelming emotions. After this, her mother Anne dies, and Janice refuses to mourn or attend the funeral, leading to Barb’s arrival.
Through their drunken unification, many of Janice’s conflicts are revealed, only this time Janice tries her best to stick around. Therefore, in the play Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth written by Drew Hayden, conflict arises as Janice fights her own emotions, Barb and Janice reunite as family, and when Janice’s culture while growing up is revealed.
Janice’s internal conflict causes her many distracting emotions, in which she makes many mistakes, especially related to her birth mother. “I grew up wanting to hate this woman, thinking my whole life was her fault. That’s why I ran out of this house” (Taylor 89). Janice just wanted a reason to criticize her unfair life, and she decided it would be her birth mother.
Janice was illustrating to Barb how it was unfair for her to be blamed for their mother’s death, because all the stacked emotions for 35 years led to one day, where she could not handle reuniting with their mother. She could not acknowledge that Anne was a good soul struggling to get Janice back. All these emotions regarding staying away from her birth mother naturally had to cause a conflict as no one would grasp what she had endured in the family. This misunderstanding of Janice’s reasons for backing out of meeting her birth mother also ignited conflict between Janice and her only remaining blood family, Barb.
Barb and Janice’s reunion brought perhaps the most affecting conflict of the story, due to the blaming and outcome. “Don’t you dare hang all of that on my head. If you want to hate me then hate me. But you have no goddamn right to blame me for Anne’s death. I’m part of this whole fucking picture too” (Taylor 87). Janice counters Barb’s accusations of Anne’s death, being all Janice’s fault. The whole scenario and the following physical fight was as a result due to tension in the family. Barb obviously loved her mother, and could not bear to see her break after 35 years of hard work to get her child back, only for that child, Janice, to abruptly leave her.
This left Barb to blame all of her mom’s problems on Janice creating a family struggle between the three. Throughout the play, family played a vital role in conflict as the plot revolves around a family aiming to mend their cracks in order to get back together. This is evident, from Anne trying to get her child back to Barb’s father sneaking into the Army for a greater income. The distance between the family and Janice was a rift caused by none other than conflicting cultures, where 35 years of a disparate society and culture cannot be fickle.
The culture in which Janice grew up in for 35 years compared to life on the reserve was simply too much for her, and the assurance in blood could not mend the rift between the conflicting cultures. “I was born here but don’t feel at home here […] She’s family and I’m not because the Children’s Aid Society took me away” (Taylor 90). Although her mother was a loving caring woman, Janice was also brought up by a kind white family that had taught her good values. Because of this, just the blood relation could not help Janice to become a part of the family and it proved to be too much for her.
The differences do not stop there, even when it comes to bonding with just Barb, both sisters have different views and experiences of the world as Janice was a working woman in the big city, compared to Barb who had spent her life on the reserve. Janice’s distance from her blood family led her not to know any of the culture on the reserve, tremendously adding to the strain on her emotions which led to conflict even after Anne’s death.
In conclusion, conflict in Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth arises within Janice, the family, and cultures. Throughout the play it is learned that Janice imagines their mother to be a shoddy person but eventually learns that this is untrue. This revelation causes internal conflict within Janice and causes her to get overwhelmed by her own emotions. Janice’s reunion with Barb, her only remaining blood family, was also full of conflict due to their differences and rifts in cultures. The conflicts of the play have a vital impact on the characters and that begs the question, would Janice have even had a chance to say her goodbyes to her birth mother if these conflicts did not reveal themselves sooner?
Taylor, Drew Hayden. Only Drunks and Children Tell the Truth. Theatre Communications Group, 2021.