Bus Stop: Summary & Playwright

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English from Mississippi State University. She holds a Mississippi AA Educator License.

William Inge wrote several well-known plays including 'Bus Stop', a romantic tale about a cowboy and a nightclub singer. Bo, the cowboy, decides to marry Cherie without any regard for her wishes. In this lesson, we will find out how Bo eventually learns to consider Cherie's feelings.

William Inge Playwright

William Inge wrote Bus Stop, a play that first appeared on Broadway in 1955. Inge, who lived from 1913 until 1973, also wrote Splendor in the Grass and Picnic. Picnic earned Inge a Pulitzer Prize. Many of Inge's plays have been made into movies.


Grace and Emma, waitresses at a diner in Kansas, are waiting for the bus to come in. Grace is the owner of the restaurant. She is somewhat set in her ways and has gotten used to being on her own. She's friendly, but seems to have attachment issues. She does not easily trust people. Emma, a young and naive girl, is a kind, friendly, and sympathetic person who seems to have a more open outlook on life. Let's see what happens when the other characters make their appearance.

At the Diner

Cherie, a nightclub singer, arrives at the diner after getting off the bus. She sees a man named Will Masters, the local sheriff, and she approaches him to report that a man is chasing her. Cherie says that the man pursuing her is Bo Decker, a cowboy she met previously in Kansas City. He wants to take Cherie to his ranch in Montana. The sheriff assures Cherie that he will protect her and not allow Bo to take her away against her will.

Elma, the diner's teenage waitress, reassures Cherie that the sheriff is capable, competent, and will make sure Bo will not be able to carry out his plan. Despite this, Cherie has a feeling of foreboding, and remarks that 'There's gonna be trouble. I kin feel it in my bones.'

Meanwhile Grace, the other waitress at the diner, flirts with the bus driver, Carl. Carl hints that it would be nice to have an apartment nearby, indicating he has heard that Grace may have her own apartment.

Bo Meets the Sheriff

Bo enters the diner and leaves the door open. When the sheriff objects, Bo's response is cocky. Bo brags about his accomplishments as a rancher and rodeo rider; then he demands the sheriff show him some respect instead of yelling commands at him from across the room. The sheriff defuses the tense situation by saying that Bo was the last person to enter so he should close the door.

Cherie and Bo

When Bo notices Cherie's luggage behind the diner's counter, he confronts her and begins to shake her. The sheriff tells Bo that he won't allow her to be abused in his presence. The sheriff coaxes Cherie to tell Bo how she feels.

Cherie explains that she doesn't want to marry Bo. She says she is taking the next bus going back to Kansas City. Bo says, 'But, Cherry . . . we was familiar with each other.' Cherie explains that having a past sexual relationship with him doesn't mean they have to get married.

Bo continues to insist that the two will get married and live on his ranch. The sheriff finally points out that there's just one problem with Bo's plan: Cherie doesn't love him.

Elma and Dr. Lyman

Elma converses with Dr. Gerald Lyman, about her plans to attend a concert in Topeka. Lyman is a retired college professor who is currently unemployed. He likes young girls, poetry, and drinking. He says that he should go to the university there to check on some research. In the process of their conversation Lyman convinces Elma to meet him for dinner and the concert. Elma is excited about the plans, but Lyman asks her not to tell anyone else that they plan to meet. A red flag for sure.

Advice from Others

Bo talks to his friend Virgil Blessing about romance. Virgil is Bo's best friend and someone he sees as a father figure. Bo, who thinks a lot of himself, cannot understand why Cherie does not want to marry someone who has so much to offer.

Meanwhile, Cherie tells Elma that she probably should marry Bo. Doing so would certainly improve her situation. However, Cherie complains because Bo only wants physical affection from her. She says after the first night Bo slept with her, he got up announcing that they were getting married. Cherie wants love, but she wonders if the kind of love she seeks really exists.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lyman begins to blather about love. Elma tells him that she likes him more than anybody she has ever known. He tries to tell her that he has bad intentions for her, and he confesses, 'For I'm a child, a drunken, unruly child, and I've nothing in my heart for a true woman.'

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