Rather big or little, relationships are one of the biggest components of life. Lives are revolved around them and egos are destroyed by them, and some are consumed by the prospect of them and the inevitable marriage that might result. The last one sometimes drive people to do things that would not normally consider. It is these antics that are often depicted by authors and such is true with The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and Sure Thing by David Ives. If you took away the relationship aspect in The Importance of Being Earnest, there would not be much left. The play’s primary focus is the relationships being forged by its characters (SparkNotes Editors, 2004). Throughout Wilde’s script, the development of friendships and romantic relationships are seen. David Ives employs the same subject content in his script Sure Thing. Ives gives a humorous insight into relationships. Like at one point where the audience is privy to a chance meeting between two strangers that concludes with the hopes of a marriage will come out of it (Kennedy & Gioia, 2009). When putting the two plays side by side, the similarities could get lost in translation. The drastically different style, settings, and plot are enough for one to say there is no comparison. It would take an extensive look and a scene by scene comparison between The Importance of Being Earnest and Sure Thing to see any similarities. But it could be found in the dishonesty and oddly at the same time sincerity of its characters as they attempt to boast there appearance to others. Social standings play a big role in Wilde and Ives characters lives in both plays, as well as marriage being the ultimate goal. Relationships and the pursuit of marriage is the driving force and resounding theme in The Importance of Being Earnest and Sure Thing.
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In The Importance of Being Earnest’s first scene a conversation between Algernon Moncrieff and his butler, Lane, during which, marriage is frequently brought up. The two chat as Algernon awaits the arrival of aunt, Lady Bracknell, when his friend, Ernest Worthing, arrives unannounced. The whole point of Ernest unexpected visit was in hopes to see Lady Bracknell’s daughter, Gwendolen, the woman he intends to marry (SparkNotes Editors, 2004). A cigarette case from Ernest’s last visit with intials not matching his own brings a barrage of question from Algernon regarding his true identity. Ernest finally confesses that his name is indeed Jack and he created the whole persona in order to escape duties expected of him in order to live more of a care-free lifestyle. Jack meets Lady Bracknell and proposes to Gwendolen, this completes the ultimate goal of his visit, so he leaves. Curiosity peeked, Algernon heads to Jack’s estate to get more information, it’s there where he find Jack’s ward, Cecily Cardew and is immediately smitten. Forthcoming is not a strong suit that either man predominantly featured in this play, and Moncrieff tells her he is Jack’s brother Ernest. Of course if Jack were to deny, it would bring to light his own dishonesty, so goes along with the tale weaved by Algernon. It seems to be flowing smoothly until Gwendolen arrives. Comparing notes, she and Cecily realize the men they love are not who they said they were. The girls forgive after the men agree to change their name to Ernest. The final act shows the arrival of Lady Bracknell who is searching for her daughter. The loss of Jacks parents result in the steadfast refusal of their proposed marriage. Instead, she encourages Algernon and Cecily to marry quickly. Miss. Prisim, Cecily’s tutor, meets Lady Bracknell and sheds some light on Jack’s lineage. This is when it’s revieled that Jack is, in fact, her nephew who was named Ernest in honor of her father. The play concludes with the hope of marriage for Jack, Gwendolen, Cecily, Algernon, and even Miss Prism.(SparkNotes Editors, 2004)
In Sure Thing , theme of relationships is perfectly packaged into one act. Set in a café, it revolves around Betty and Bill both in their twenties. At the start, Betty is seen at a table reading a book, when Bill comes in and approaches her. Bill eager to talk to her asks if the empty seat was being used in which she gives a hurried yes. Bill apologizes, and Betty responds by saying “Sure thing.”(Ives, 1995) From somewhere in the background a bell is heard and the play begins again. Early on Betty rejects Bill again and again, but with each ring of the bell, her resolve weakens and her interest is peeked. After several restarts, Betty and Bill discover similarities in their interests, like movies or snack cakes or that they both believe in marriage and children ( Kennedy & Gioia, 2009). ).The ending comes with their promise to love and cherish each other as they exit the café.
The first comparative point in both plays lies in the characters ability to be dishonest if it was in the pursuit of love. As is apparent in The Importance of Being Earnest. Each character has a dark cloud of dishonesty surrounding them, especially when it comes to their names and origins. This is apparent in the very first interaction shown when Algernon is interrogating Jack in regards to the cigarette case; “From Little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack” ( Wilde,1990. p.5). He found the aforementioned inscription baffling, as the man who the cigarette case belongs to name is Ernest. Jack first insist that Cecily is his aunt, but Algernon won’t accepts this and employs more badgering to get to the truth. It’s under that constant scrutiny that Jack concedes that Cecily, is in reality his ward. As this takes place, his lies begin to unravel as he is compelled to admit that he’s not Ernest, but his actual moniker is Jack. He had built this life around a complete fabrication so admitting his dishonesty could be detrimental to his friendship with Algernon. The most common reason a lie is told by the men is to escape duties that are expected of them socially or because of family. However, the difficulties each character experiences trying to maintain the lie and then trying to fix it once it’s found out do not seem worth it. As is true in “real” life, once a lie is told it has a domino effect of deceit, a lie to back up a lie to back up the original lie. All lies must come to end as inconsistencies build up and the truth must be revealed. What is tragic is the men in the play feel justified and show no guilt in the lies they told because it was all for the Ultimate Goal, Love and Marriage. Comparatively, Sure Thing’s scribe also paint’s his characters as dishonest, especially in the first few lines. Betty instinctively lies when Bill inquires about the empty seat. Bill: “Is this taken?” Betty: “Yes it is.” Bill: “Oh, sorry.” Betty: “Sure thing.” ( Ives,1995, pg.1) Each time the bell rings, it reveals a new version of Betty’s original fallacy. Like The Importance of Being Ernest, Sure Thing uses dishonesty as an aide to further their intentions to marry.
The second comparative point is its characters sincerity, which in it of itself is oxymoronic as dishonesty is a major trait. But each character in the plays demonstrate it. Like in The Importance of Being Ernest, this point consistently portrayed. Even though the gentleman lie to the women they are in pursuit of, they do it sincerely wanting to marry them and they feel they have no choice. A good example of this lies in a conversation between Jack and Lady Bracknell. Lady Bracknell feels Jack is displaying characteristic of insincerity but Jack protest as he says “On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”( Wilde,1990, p.540) Betty and Bill in Sure Thing also are swaddled in a blanket of sincerity that might be hard to see without giving the play a hard look. Ives plants seeds of symbolisms threw out the whole play even in the title. “Sure Thing” seems to point to the primal need of one to find sincerity within the one they intend to love eliminating risk. Throughout the entire play, Betty and Bill volley between being the ones seeking out the sincerity behind the words of the others and that triggers the bell to chime. Betty and Bill cannot seem to get it right. The bell interrupts their efforts time and time again. However hard to find, Ives observations on society is buried in there. Bill tries relentlessly to pursue a relationship with Betty, but each time one or the other feels unworthy of such relationship and it derails the process thus resulting in a “do over” (Kennedy & Gioia, 2009). Ives does this repeatedly so factors are met so a relationship can be achieved. Being sincere is a key factor in a developing relationship especially those of a romantic variety. In the end, Betty and Bill are successful in their attempts to reach their goal of marriage. Bill: “And will you love me?” Betty: “Yes.” Bill: “And cherish me forever?” Betty: “Yes.” ( Ives,1995, pg.18)
The final comparative point is the importance of wealth and status and how it influences relationships. The Importance of Being Earnest puts this on display with its depiction of Victorian times as almost trivial sense. Lady Bracknell is portrayed a stereo-typical wealthy woman who only wants to associate with those with comparative backgrounds. She is not the only one whose status is on display, it’s prevalent in most characters. Most participate in life of leisure. No one really ever does anything beyond a conversation with others. Wealth and status in the context that is used adds to the triviality of marriage with its influence of the possible union between Jack and Gwendolen. Lady Bracknell is steadfast in her disapproval of the potential union mainly because Jack’s status is in question. Gwendolen feels it’s her duty to follow Lady Bracknell’s wishes even though they are not conducive to her own, “..although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry some one else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly do can alter my eternal devotion to you.” (Wilde,1990, p.28) Judging someone in regards to their financial background and privilege was a common practice of this time. Lady Bracknell personify this practices during her interrogation of Jack. Jack offers up an explanation on his parents absence, but is not an acceptable one. He is then declared not a worthy candidate for her daughters love and especially her hand in marriage. She wants him to have no further contact with her daughter as she says, “â€¦But of course, you will clearly understand that all communication between yourself and my daughter must cease immediately from this moment” (Wilde, 1990, p.41).
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In Sure Thing, wealth and status also adds to authors protrayal of the triviality of marriage, however to compare results in a contrast The Importance of Being Earnest. Wealth and status in modern times, although a good selling point, is not as significant. Instead other judgments are imposed when seeking a romantic candidate, like views on politics or religion or the education one has. Betty reveals conversationally, though, that she is not that concerned with status more specifically shown when she simply states, “Labels are not important” (Ives,1995, pg. 16). Ives craftily shows that status is so much so a focus that it is almost not, meaning when Bill sees that Betty is not concerned with it he wants to eagerly show her he isn’t as well but struggle on how to say it, “I believe that a man is what he is.” (Bell.) “A person is what he is.” (Bell.) “A person is… what they are” (Ives,1995, pg 16). With final sentence revision, he finally gets Betty’s approval, thus perpetuating wealth and status as a factor in any regards and the influence it holds when relationships are concerned.
In conclusion, portraying the triviality of marriage threw both literary works is something both Oscar Wilde and David Ives achieved. The characters dialogue exemplifies it and the tone reflects it. Approaching it with an air of humor Ives and Wilde are able to easily display the points of wealth and status, deception, and sincerity without taking away from the overall theme of triviality of marriage.
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