The excerpt under analysis is taken from a play “Thursday Evening” written by Christopher Morley. He was born in 1890. He is an American author, received unusual recognition early in his career. Among his widely known novels are “Kitty Foyle” and “The Trojan Horse”. The subject matter of the excerpt is a quarrel between Laura and Gordon, a married couple, they have to struggle through and a common mother-in-law stereotype, which Christopher Morley opposes the with two very likable and charming women.
The plot is developed on the basis of conflict between different set of values, Laura’s and Gordon’s, due to their different social background. The organization of the contents is straight-narrative presentation, because the events are given in their chronological order. As for the type of narration, dialogs of the main characters are interwoven with the author’s remarks, where description of their actions, the way they do something and atmosphere are presented. The excerpt is presented in a 1st person singular, which is typical for a play.
It is written in highly emotional, humorous and occasionally ironical key. The author tells us some information about main heroes at the very beginning to let us see that they are just an ordinary family(couple). He uses mostly direct method of characterization ( his remarks), and we easily see what people they are. The text can be divided into 3 logical parts: the quarrel, a treaty peace between 2 mothers and reconciliation. As for the exposition, which is given in author’s note, we learn that the scene is set in the small kitchen of the modest suburban home of Mr and Mrs Gordon Johns.
A meal has recently been cooked and Laura has served a dinner for four as both the grandmothers are visiting. Both husband and wife are washing up. They are in good humor at first but every time one or the other refers to his or her mother the atmosphere becomes tense. A fierce conflict breaks out between Laura and Gordon when he begins hunting for the plate with a lot of perfectly good stuff he saved. Although Gordon was also slighted by the fact that Junior (their son) drank out of Laura’s mother’s cup, he took great pains to avert a gathering storm.
That’s why at the beginning of the 1st part the atmosphere is tense. The author enhances the desired effect with the help of metaphor in his remark, characterizing the way of Gordon behavior: his fuse also is rapidly shortening. A great force of conviction is achieved due to the vivid stylistic coloring of the language of the characters. Gordon always points to Laura being wasteful and to show his feelings the author makes use of the anadiplosis: My Lord, it’s no wonder we never have any money to spend if we chuck half of it in waste. Waste! Look at that piece of cheese and those potatoes.
It seems that the author treats the matter with irony, as in his remark he uses periphrasis various selections for discarded food. He also reveals his own attitude to the main characters and the whole situation through the usage of straight characteristic and simile at the same time like a fool in his remark. Gordon is tired of work and he can’t stand Laura’s extravagance, to show it Morley resorts to the simile: It makes me wild to think of working and working like a dog and metaphor: throwing away money. The repetition of the phrase“Look at this, just look at it! carries a heavy stylistic weight.
The author employs a very picturesque epithet grisly, disgusting to represent the facts of reality more vividly. To express Laura’s feelings Morley uses parallel construction: you attend to your affairs and I’ll attend to mine. The spouses break off each other in mid-sentence: Your mother – Of course, I wasn’t an only daughter – Oh, this is too absurd – Now listen –. Aposiopesis, as well as interjections Great Scott, my Lord , direct address: Gordie, Creature, my gracious, darling, ducky, elliptical sentences: The expectant mother-in-law!
Very sensible. Splendid. Exactly. Now listen! Fine! ,parenthesis: of course and fillers: you know, well makes the speech more colloquial and emphasizes the dynamism and rhythm of dialogs. From Laura’s words It’s a wonder you wouldn’t get a job as a scavenger, I never heard of a husband like you, rummaging through the garbage pail we see humorous and ironical key, which is saved in Gordon’s replies, to strengthen this effect he uses exaggeration the one unforgivable sin is waste. Laura is tired of Gordon’s attacks and she acts according to principles a good defense is a good offense.
Morley uses parallel constructions in her replies You’re always quick.. you don’t seem.. you come back.. There are some rhetorical questions such as do you ever say a word of praise? Is it necessary to shout? that make dialogs sound true to life. As they go on quarrelling they involve their son and future marriage If he gets married…To depict the tension of the situation the author resorts to a very successful case of parallel constr. and anaphoric repetition, also Laura says He will get married he shall get married. And the modal verb contributes much to the effect of gradation.
The argument is too absurd, and this is achieved by the metaphor in handcuffs which author uses in Gordon reply to Laura’s words about Juniors upbringing. Gordon addresses Laura an expectant mother in law and it is a pun that supplements the comic effect, as well as ironical remark of Gordon let’s see if you can ratify it from your extensive observation of life and pun I did’t find fault I found some good food being wasted. Then again follows a gradation, Gordon says the most offensive words that marriage ought not to be performed before an altar but before a kitchen sink.
In this sentence we see antithesis. In the dialog of these two people we can trace the way they evaluate the situation and their attitude to each other. These words of Gordon make Laura furious and the application of a parallel construction with anaphoric repetition I ought to have known in this episode changes the rhythm of the narration from unhurried and slow into energetic, throbbing and excited. The antithesis oil and water won’t mix is to show that Laura thinks they are too different to fill the gap between them, to overcome this obstacles.
To strengthen this idea the author uses a wide variety of epithets vulgar, selfish, conceited, happy, common, ordinary, charming, aristocratic and simile like a washerwoman. Then we face sarcasm which are used by Laura to humiliate Gordon her poor overworked boy and exaggeration the only man on earth supplies an ironic touch to the episode, here there is also a case of polisindeton to sound more dynamic. In a large author’s remark personification a fit of anger seizes him and some epithets as gloomy, irresolutely, carefully is employed to create a more tangible sensual and visual perception of the situation.
Laura being very angry with each Gordon exits the room, flinging the towel on the floor and leaving Gordon alone with his thoughts. Soon he throws his apron too and goes out slamming a door and 2 mothers-in-law, around whom the plot will evolve, come and start to discuss an overheard quarrel. They make excuses for the behavior of their children and justify them. Their opening remarks present a case of parallel constr. if it wasn’t so tragic\comic .. To show Laura’s weakness the writer resorts to oxymoron “dreadfully sensitive”.
To describe mothers’ attitude towards their children Morley makes use of epithets : dreadfully stubborn and tactless (G), undisciplined little thing (L). The author employs to periphrasis in Mrs Sheffield’s words I gave her wrong ideas and metaphor hard awakening. It means that marriage turned out not to be an easy thing as she expected. Their remarks are very polite and friendly and they blame themselves for this quarrel. The author uses oxymoron to show that quarrels are inevitable in everyday life and every family has to struggle through them when I heard them at it I could hardly help admiring them. t brings back old times.
And Mrs Johnd thinks that a little vigorous quarrelling is a kind of spiritual laxative in this case simile is employed to underline the idea that sometimes it is normal, necessary to say each other what you think and after it you feel easy and free. Nothing bothers you anymore. To reveal Mrs Johns’ feelings simile : Being a mother-in-law is almost as painful as being a mother. They admire at their children and praise them awfully ingenious, and again it is oxymoron, which is used to stress their ingenuity.
Then 2 mothers in law want to make their children ashamed of themselves. They know that Laura is lying on the couch Metaphor: her (Laura’s) face is buried in the cushions and is listening with all her ears it is a metonymy to show how attentive Laura is. Gordon is in the garden. In the sentence cunning as serpents and harmless as doves simile and antithesis are used to portray their mood and attitude towards their idea, it means that they are going to take the initiative and to let G and L see themselves from the outside. They begin to talk very loudly in pretended quarrel.
In author’s remarks such epithets as knowingly, stealthily, cautiously help us to imagine the whole picture in details. The next episode presents a climax of an excerpt, when the dining room door opens like an explosion (simile) and Laura bursts in. It shows how furious she was. And then comes Gordon, they both heard everything. But now they atmosphere in the room is calm. They can’t believe their mother could have said so deliberately. Laura starts to admit her mistakes, saying that I am spoiled, and I am silly, and I am extravagant..
Posysindeton is used to underline how miserable she feels, her despair. Gordon’s reply don’t be silly (pun) creates the atmosphere of forthcoming reconciliation. Gordon wants to comfort her that’s why he treats her like a baby, using half reported speech Gordon understands and gently turns to her. Such remarks as a sob, pats her tentatively, takes her in arms contribute to the vividness of narration and to the whole conciliated situation. They admit that the words they’ve overheard were not exactly true (litotes).. and anadiplosis were true? .. true this means that they understand each other at a glance.