“A family is a remarkable thing, isn’t it? You belong. And then you don’t. It passes you by. Unless you start a family of your own.”
The last two plays of Horton Foote’s Orphans’ Home Cycle both expand and contract the circle of a family that unifies all nine of the plays. In Cousins, an operation on Horace Robedaux’s mother reunites, in person and in memory, the many Robedaux relatives (one of whom speaks the lines quoted above), and in the almost comic proliferation of cousins that results, the orphaned Horace is joined across time and space to a family that seems never to end.
The Death of Papa returns the cycle to its origins, with the death of Horace’s father-in-law. Far from ending the story, however, Papa’s death regenerates the complexity of families and their survival, as his son bravely but foolishly tries to assume control of the land that supports his family’s life.