Old Man River Drama Summary in English by Dorothy Deming

Story in a Nutshell

Five young children ranging between ages 9-17 are stranded in the Marshall household, when their town is gutted by a heavy downpour and is flooded. Using their wits and available resources, this narrates how they manage to survive in a house until help arrives, without any adult supervision.

Characters in the Play

  1. Amy Marshall – 17 years old
  2. Betty Marshall – Amy’s younger sister
  3. Rose Field – 16 years old, the Marshall’s neighbour
  4. Sara Field – 9 years old, Rose’s sister
  5. Jim Hall – 17 years old, another neighbour
  6. Mr. Peters – Member of the Red Cross Disaster Committee
  7. Penny Marsh – Red Cross nurse

Scene I

The Cloudburst

It is a late afternoon in March, the Marshall sisters and their neighbour Rose are hanging out in the Marshall household. Rose looks out of the window and points to the small lake that has formed in the backyard because of the heavy rain. Amy and Betty join in on her observation and the younger sister informs that the radio said the river had crossed the flood stage.

While the three are discussing, their other neighbour Jim makes an entry. Jim breaks the news that the downpour is a cloudburst and the river water is rising fast. He informs that the situation is turning grim.

Gearing Up

A phone call makes it known that Mrs. Marshall is stuck at a friend’s place and will not be able to make it to their house. Rose is asked to stay at the house and the kids get in action. Jim, who served in the Junior Red Cross emergency squadtakes leadership and assigns duties to the girls. Betty is assigned with searching for candles, torches and lanterns, while Rose has to fill water and Amy and Jim, will gather food supplies and warm clothes for everyone.

Remaining Calm

As Rose and Betty leave, Jim turns to Amy and tells her that the house is in direct line of the river. With the dam broken, they are stranded and can only hope for a rescue to boat to reach them as both the exits are flooded. The water keeps rising and reaches around the garage.

Amy begins to panic and Jim assures her by reminding how the old pals have always stuck together in every problem and managed to solve them all, including the fire at the school. He tells her that they must remain calm and not panic, gather all supplies and if the need arises then they would climb to the roof. Once on the roof, they would signal for help.

Little Sara

As the four were conversing, they heard a child’s voice. The voice belonged to none other than Rose’s younger sister Sara. The little girl followed her sister and was now stranded on the playhouse porch. Although the playhouse was on high ground it is almost afloat and sooner than later it would submerge.

Jim sets out to fetch Sara and is soaked with the water reaching his knees. Amy tells Betty to get some of Mr. Marshall’s clothes for Jim and Dick’s for Sara. Jim enters with a very happy Sara on his back. Sara unaware of the gravity of the situation is in a playful mood and demands more piggyback rides.

Lights Out

While Amy was about to fetch some supper, the power goes out. They all gasp and Betty screams. Jim who was trying to stay calm, casually adds that the power house must be out of commission and asks Betty to light her candles. Betty gets her flashlight and lights three candles. Fortunately, they can still have supper as their stove is oil operated.

The kids not letting their spirits dampen, march to the kitchen, humming. With little time on their hands until the water invades their house, Jim decides to go to the roof and signal for help. He is certain that someone will see the light and come to help them. Both Jim and Amy are terrified but being the older ones, they keep a brave front.

Scene II

Evacuating to the Attic

The same group sits in the hall, except Jim who is on the roof. Sara is asleep and Betty unsuccessfully tries to read a book in the dim candlelight. The clock has struck 11 but none of them could sleep. A noise is heard and Rose rushes to the window but sees nothing except pitch darkness. She thinks something bumped against the house and that caused the noise. A scared Betty asks everyone to stay close.

Jim returns from the roof hopeful that someone must have spotted his light before the batteries died. Jim once again takes charge and suggests they should start moving to the attic since the rain has stopped pouring. Betty rushes to get her new spring coat and Rose gently wakes up Sara. Amy seems to prioritize books and jewels and Jim reminds her they need water and food for survival.

The Rescue Boat

Jim was interrupted by a shout from outside and they realise it’s a recuse boat. Betty too excitedly comes to look. Amy and Jim call for them from inside. Mr. Peters and Miss Marsh have come with their boat. Miss Marsh is a Red Cross nurse. Jim asks them to direct the boat towards the back porch and enter from there. The helpers come in and Betty excitedly calls for Sara.

Just as they were speaking a loud crash and crying sound emerges and Rose shouts that Sara has fallen off the ladder. Jim fixes some chairs for Sara to settle on and Mr. Peters carries her and places her on the chairs. Miss Marsh helps a crying Sara and assures her that she will take Sara home safely.

Miss Marsh takes the elder children to a side and informs that Sara has broken her right leg below the knee and needs to be taken to the Red Cross hospital in Armoury. They prepare a makeshift splint for Sara with pillows and umbrella. Sara, Rose and Betty are taken along with Mr. Peters and Miss Marsh while Amy and Jim are kept behind for a second ride. They wish each other luck and Jim and Amy raise a coffee toast in gratitude of being rescued.


Throughout the entire calamity, although fearful the kids did not let their fear overpower their sense of survival and quick wit. Amy and Jim especially, incredibly fulfilled their roles of being the eldest and smartest. If anything, this story teaches us to bravely face all difficulties that life presents before us. It teaches one to calmly understand the issue and not panic. When one panics, they lose their control over the problem and their emotions then cloud the judgement.

One must also have some knowledge of first aid and volunteer in aiding programs. It is important to remember that, everyone needs help and when you can, you must be the helper.