‘This farm stays in the family. It’s a question of blood.’
Hannie Rayson’s play Inheritance tackles many important issues through the characters and their conflict, and portrays that even the strongest family relationships can be threatened by questions of inheritance. The play deals with the conflicts arising from the central issue of who will inherit Allandale which tears the Delaney and Hamilton families apart when greed, selfishness and racial prejudice threaten their already fragile family relations. Rayson uses flashbacks, fast paced scenes, binary oppositions, vernacular language and characterisation to reflect the central issues of fragile family relationships, inheritance and land ownership.
The play takes place in the 21st century and uses flashbacks to the past of 1934 to highlight the cyclical nature of ongoing problems faced by the Delaney and Hamilton families. Rayson's structure of using short scenes reflects the splitting of the family and its fortunes due to the conflict created by the issue of inheritance based on their farm and family history. In doing so, the play Inheritance depends on dramatic irony. The characters' knowledge is partial and their actions tragic. The audience sees all sides, understanding the full, tragic impact of situations on characters. The structural device of constantly shifting between the past and the present using flashbacks.
This issue of conflict and resentment becomes evident in Act 1, Scene 11 with William’s arrival as he plans to convince his mother Dibs to sell the farm using a bantering tone in “Have you told Julia yet? ….that we’re selling the farm.” As the play unfolds, William’s character reveals himself to be self-seeking, arrogant and ruthless as he coldly informs Nugget “this a matter of family” in enforcing that Nugget has no rights to the farm as he does not consider him to be family, though Farley was their father. Nugget’s illegitimacy as a ‘bastard son’ disgusts William who maintains that...