Death of a Hired Hand by R. J. Cardullo | Script Revolution

Death of a Hired Hand

A farmhand returns to the place of his previous employment, ostensibly to work but really to sleep—and then to die.

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Page Count: 
11pp

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Based On: 
“The Death of the Hired Man” (1914), a poem by Robert Frost.
Synopsis/Details: 

Early 1900s. "Death of a Hired Hand" concerns a conversation, during a single evening, between an American farmer (Warren) and his wife (Mary) about what to do with an ex-employee named Silas. The latter had helped with haymaking but left the farm at an inapt time after being offered “pocket money” by another employer. Now old Silas makes his return in late autumn, on foot, looking like a “miserable sight”—and looking for work.

The dialogue between Mary and Warren occurs on the porch while Silas is asleep beside the stove in the farmhouse. Despite his obvious poor health, the older man wants to help the couple with the next haymaking season. Warren, however, is displeased with the unreliable Silas’s return and wants him to leave. Mary urges Warren to be kind and herself is generally warm toward Silas.

Questions naturally arise as to any deeper motivation behind the hired hand’s homecoming. There is mention of Harold Wilson, a boy who helped with the haymaking during his school days, four years ago, and whom Silas declares must be brought back to help again with the next season. Yet the two farmworkers did not get along well, in part because of Silas's indignation at Harold's studiousness, particularly in the subject of Latin. As a result of her conversation with Silas, Mary believes that he would like to teach Harold more about haymaking, so that the boy can be something more in life than a “fool of books."

Tension builds with the revelation that, not only did Silas leave Warren at a dire time, but he also has a brother—a wealthy bank director—who lives just thirteen miles away from the farm. When Warren wonders what's between the two men, Mary declares that, worthless though their hired hand may be, he won't be made ashamed to please his brother. Then she prods her husband to go and see Silas. Warren does so and, and after a few moments, he ominously asks his wife to join him inside. After Mary enters the farmhouse, her weeping can be heard from the now vacant porch.

Submitted: January 14, 2021
Last Updated: January 15, 2021

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R. J. Cardullo's picture

The Writer: R. J. Cardullo

A former university film teacher, I turned to screenwriting several years ago. I have also written film criticism for many publications. A New Yorker by birth, I grew up in Miami and was educated at the University of Florida, Tulane, and Yale. My last U.S. address was in Milford, Connecticut; I am now an expatriate residing in Scandinavia. Many of my scripts (both long and short) are adaptations of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I am happy to re-write, collaborate, or write on demand. Thanks kindly for any attention you can give my work. Go to bio

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