In Water by the Spoonful, the author portrays Elliot as a military veteran who has had a rough life from a very young age. He lost his younger sister under bad parental circumstances, has a limp from being in the Iraq war, and works as a sandwich maker making his life not too significant. Elliott does not seem to have a lot of drive with going somewhere in life. He likes to stay in his comfort zone even if it means making sandwiches for a living instead of trying to persuade a professional career.
For Elliott, change is something that brings him anxiety and stress similarly to the character of Margie from Good People. Margie is a single mother who is raising her handicapped adult daughter in the Southie Boston area. She has just lost her job and is in a tough financial situation. She is going to be evicted if she does not pay rent and tries to get an old friend, who happens to be her daughters’ father, to help her find employment. Both characters experience significant changes in their lives noted in both plays.
Elliott has just lost his adoptive mother whom he lives with, and Margie has lost her job, in which she was living paycheck to paycheck. Elliott and Margie are going through difficult changes in their lives with significant events that have transpire but what they both fail to realize are their inner struggles within themselves and do not realize what truly is holding them back from making progress. In the play Water by the Spoonful, Elliott does not handle stress situations very well.
In Scene 3, when news of his adoptive mother, being admitted to the hospital reaches him, he physically shows rage and becomes violent. “Just smashed the bathroom mirror all over the floor. Boss sent me out to the parking lot” (Hudes 20), then Elliott not only shows physical violence towards his surroundings but also to himself, “I’m about to start walking down Lancaster Avenue for thirty miles till I get back to Philly and I don’t care if I snap every wire out my leg and back, I need to get out of here. I need to see Mom, I need to talk to her! (Hudes 21)
The anger at finding out the devastating news about his loved one is too much to bear for Elliott, and he resorts to becoming violent and thus shows he has a severe anger management problem. Instead of trying to find some peace, he goes to the gym to “blow off steam” and is revealed he has had four leg surgeries (Hudes 28). Later in the play, it is learn he is addicted to pain killers and with the mentioning of the leg surgeries and the pain he must feel, I believe it is safe to assume, not only was he trying to let steam out towards the end of the scene, but was also continuing his drug use.
In an article written by Theodore Dalrymple, there is a key phrase that states the reasons as to what someone can see in you when speaking up for yourself, “Parading one’s vices is regarded as a sign of sincerity, maturity, willingness to change for the better, and fundamental goodness of heart” (NPN). All of these things are symbols of what Margie does not show throughout the play except her kind but naive heart. In Scene 1, when Margie finds out she is being fired, she does not seem to take the news very seriously.
At first, she ignores the points Stevie is making and for every reason he gives her as to why she is being fired, she seems to have a reason for why it happened. She mentions Dottie is not the most reliable babysitter, she’s not late every day, other employees call in sick all the time, she rather take a pay cut, and her daughter being handicapped limits her time to get to work among other things (Lindsay-Abaire I). Being a single mother of a handicapped adult daughter is very stressful. There have been many studies that show the effects it has on specifically single mothers. Rearing a child with disabilities is a challenge, perhaps even more so for single parents who most often are women. Stress and negative psychological effects have been considered likely outcomes for parents of children with disabilities” (Boyce 389). It is possible Margie has been psychologically affected by the caring of Joyce as a single parent with not much support, making her feel vulnerable when it comes into confrontational situations. Margie shows she is not a responsible person, and since she had already been warned before, she could have let Dottie know how much her job was on the line.
When she is talking about it with Dottie and Jean during Scene 2, she does not let Dottie know she was part of the reason why she was fired. If Dottie had been on time all the days she had to watch Joyce, Stevie would not have fired Margie. “It’s not your fault Dottie. Let it go” (Lindsay-Abaire I 27). By Margie not standing up for herself to Dottie in this scene shows she is a person who easily gives up and does not fight for herself. She is fifty years old and used to work at a dollar store for nine dollars an hour. She lives in a rundown apartment and does not mind settling for less, which is why she has made no progress in her life.
Margie’s standard way of life is pretty low and now that she is unemployed, she considers visiting Mike who she has not seen in years. Instead of trying to better her image, she calls herself stupid and ignorant for not knowing how computers work at the library (Lindsay-Abaire I). The struggle Margie has is not of money, like she thinks it is, but of not having any positive outlook towards herself. She mentions she will become homeless with “Cookie. She’s got the granny cart…Now she sleeps against the wall… Maybe me and Joyce can move in next to her…passing that bottle back and forth”(Lindsay-Abaire I 33).
It is as if Margie is already welcoming the thought of becoming homeless because so many people she used to know ended up doing that or in prison. Both Margie and Elliott are pessimistic people who cling to their memory of a hard upbringing childhood and do not want to think positive about their future and how to make it better. In Act II, Scene I, Margie emphasizes to Mike how he had a family who wanted him to have a better future, unlike her. “Let’s start with the fact you had a father, and he worked…I didn’t have someone checking my homework like you did Mikey.
My mother was too busy killing herself at the box factory… I did drop out of school” (Lindsay-Abaire 143, 175). Margie was letting Mike know how lucky he was to have someone push him to have a better life since she did not. Margie is reflecting on her past and blaming her absent parental guidance as to why she did not do too well in succeeding. Pessimistic people are always expecting the worst and do not expect anything better. This, in turn, does not help them to become optimistic and that is a key to ones success. In this next quote, it is explained what effects positive thinkers have in their life. People who are optimistic by disposition are good at coping with problems and flexible about trying new courses of action when needed…and…there is the possibility of self-fulfilling prophecies” (Mangelsdorf NPN). This clearly states that having a positive outlook in life will bring many great things to your future and in the long run help your personality as well. Like Margie, Elliott does not seem to have a positive outlook for his future. When talking to Yaz, he mentions what he thinks is going to happen to him once his father sells the house he was living in, “Washed up at age twenty-four.
Disabled vet. Motherless chil’. Working at Subway. Soon-to-be- homeless” (Hudes 34). This quote shows the negative view Elliott has of his future and it is not too appealing. Although later in the passage he talks about possibly accepting the offer for an interview, he still has not come to terms with his drug addiction and until he does, he cannot move forward. Elliott’s leg is causing him pain; by taking and abusing his medicine, there may be a serious problem with his leg and if so, it is unknown because he does not feel anything since he is taking so many pills.
He does not have any self-control and thinks the reason he is the person he is, is because of his mother, the bad upbringing and pain she caused for him. “Sit here and listen, Yaz. You were born with a silver spoon and you need to know how it was for me” (Hudes 51). He then proceeds to explain the last memory of his sister and how their mother was too busy to take care of them and could not give them a spoonful of water every five minutes for a stomach bug, leading to Mary Lou’s death (Hudes 52).
The memories’ Elliot has of his mother is what’s stopping him from forgiving her. The strong negative impact he feels that he had in his childhood and the fact his mother chose crack over her children is causing Elliott a great deal of pain he cannot move on from. Also, the mentioning of how Yaz had it easy and her life was not as rough as Elliot’s, suggests he feels unlucky and is possibly the reason why he looks up to Yaz. “You show all us cousins, maybe we can’t ever do it ourselves, but it is possible” (Hudes 9).
Yaz graduated high school, went to college through a scholarship, and is an adjunct music teacher at a college, and Elliott is proud of her. Elliott does not think he has a drug problem or needs help for it. He is so angry at how his mother robbed him of a happy childhood that he is not realizing she is trying to become better and in the end, he is becoming like her by not accepting the fact he has an addiction and asking for help. There are many studies that show military people are abusing these drugs. The Army Gold Book reports at least half of these deaths were related to high-risk behavior — with 312 drug toxicity deaths the result of high-risk behavior. Of the 312 deaths, 68 percent involved prescription medication” (NPN). By looking at this study, the odds of Elliott overdosing are high and should make him think this is a serious problem, he should ask for help and who better to help him than his mother or even her cyber family. Just like Elliott has a hard time in seeking drug help, Margie has trouble accepting that she should not concede to a lie and should speak up for the truth.
In Scene 1 Act II, Margie is visiting Mike’s home and is chatting with Kate and Mike. The conversation starts to tense when Margie reveals events from their childhood Mike had failed to mention. When Margie mentioned Mike as the father of Joyce things escalated and Margie stopped defending her argument instead mentioning it was Jean’s idea. “ I told her it was stupid. Jeannie. I told her it was a stupid idea. “Just say Joyce wasn’t premature. ” She thought it’d be funny. You’re right it wasn’t nice”(Lindsay-Abaire II 187).
Once Mike became more violent and hostile, this in turn triggers Margie to backed down from what she had mentioned. For once, Margie was talking with an open heart and being very honest with Kate and Mike about why she never really left Southie, and all the circumstances surrounding it. Once she mentioned Mike was the father and not Gobie because she did not want Joyce to be an anchor baby for Mike, he found it insulting and began to close off by wanting to kick Margie out of the house and have none of it.
Margie was trying to say she had been nice for too long and she was trying to not be so nice anymore but in the end it backfired and she went back on her word, instead claiming it was a fabricated lie just so she would not be described as this evil liar who is about to ruin Mike’s family and their future. By Margie standing her ground and not backing down from what she said, Mike would have been made financially responsible for Joyce, making Margie’s future, at least, financially stable. Elliott looks at his mother with a negative view and does not realize he is following in her footsteps.
Margie is so desperate in finding a job that can help her make ends meet but she fails to realize without a positive outlook at life, and not taking advantage of certain encounters, she will not be able to make a significant change in her life. Neither Elliott nor Margie sit back and look at their life in a different perspective. “Self-focused attention promotes trying harder versus withdrawing, particularly with regard to how optimistic and pessimistic performance expectancies influence motivation” (Silvia 363).
This quote reflects both characters by stating how much self-focus really help people better their lives. Elliott’s drug problem, violent tendencies, anger management and a conflicted childhood are all things holding him back from being able to move forward. Margie’s self doubt, unmotivated and weak personality are the inner traits she has that keep her from making true progress for her future. In the end, both of these characters have internal struggles that are clear for an audience to see, but not clear for them to realize.
Audience Analysis Sheet This essay is written for those who would like to look into the personalities of the two main characters from the plays: Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegria Hudes and Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire. I have gathered sources depicting optimism, drug abuse within the military, raising children with disabilities by a single parent as well as self-focus. I am writing this for someone who may want to research for two characters in literature that can relate with how they think, act, and their perspective of life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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