Question: How do the playwrights make the relationship between Sarah Brady and Matthew Harrison Brady amusing throughout the play?
Answer: The above-mentioned play has been written by renowned playwrights, ‘Robert E lee’ and ‘Jerome Lawrence’. The play focuses on different aspects on rural and urban livelihoods. The pair of Sarah Brady and her husband gathers the audience’s attention as initially; Brady comes across as a dynamic personality. This couple relationship has been made amusing by the playwrights’ use of stage directions, apt diction, and the exchange of dialogue between the two; their relationship has been made entertaining for the audience.
The playwrights have added a comical touch to their relationship by using stage direction. The couple is introduced as the ‘second lady’ and ‘second man’ of the nation. This lays the foundation of how the playwrights are going to mock the couple throughout the play. Mrs. Brady ‘seems to be in his [Brady’s] shadow’, which doesn’t ‘annoy’ her. In the 1950’s it was a stereotype for men to be more dominant than women however, a 21st century audience may conceive this to be amusing as we live in a society where the basic principle of marriage is equality. And this relationship is the opposite of that. In addition, Sarah Brady constantly treats Matthew Harrison Brady as an immature child. Due to Brady’s condition, she ‘pulls out a small kerchief and tucks around his neck,’ elucidating on how Mrs. Brady catered to every need of her husband. Sarah Brady is perpetually concerned about Matthew’s health. She interrupts his and the reverend’s conversation for a whimsical reason. However, this doesn’t seem to annoy the man even though it may portray him in a bad light in front of his follower. The contrast in Brady’s behavior when the photographer is clicking his picture where he tries to get the perfect pose. This immaturity in their relationship is hilarious for the audience. Alternatively, this comes across as amusing to the audience as Sarah Brady is unable to look beyond her husband’s physical flaws. She has become so consumed in taking care of him, that she is unable to figure out that he has taken a path that would lead to his downfall. This blind love is also in contrast to the bond between Cates and Rachael. She doesn’t pick Bert over here father for love, but because she realizes that she had been living in a bubble of narrow-mindedness under her father. This is something Sarah Brady fails to recognize. Subsequently, after Brady has been mocked and humiliated in the courtroom, Sarah tries to comfort him. She ‘cradling [es]’ a wailing Brady ‘against her breast’ and ‘rocking [rocks]’ him to sleep.’ This shows how she treated Brady as a baby. An audience would perceive this as amusing as it’s the male who has a strong and dominant personality. Instead, over here, Sarah seems to be the one who knits their relationship together. Therefore, with the aid of stage directions, the playwrights are able to portray an amusing relationship between the Brady’s.
The playwrights also make their relationship entertaining with the help of diction. Lawrence and Lee portray this relationship as that of a mother and a child. Brady constantly refers to his wife as ‘mother’ and his counterpart refers to him as ‘baby’. The immaturity in their relationship is again highlighted in this case. This shows how Sarah Brady assumes the role of a mother, constantly guiding Brady in what to do. Even though it was Brady who got humiliated Sarah was ‘worried and distraught’, as a ‘mother’ would be. Her overflowing concern for Brady makes their relationship amusing to the audience. As the play progresses, this thought is again reinforced scene after scene. Even though Brady was a presidential candidate thrice, he sobbed like a baby on every defeat and embarrassment, like the one suffered at the hands of Drummond. And each time Sarah Brady was forced to step in and console her husband, like a mother consoling her child. The playwrights use soothing words whenever Sarah Brady and her husband converse. The phrase ‘its alright’ depicts how even Sarah had to help her husband every time he felt sad and low. This shows how she would try and make Brady happy even when the whole world had gone against him. However, this time, her reply is ‘unconvincing’. This again shows how Sarah Brady lived ‘under the shadow’ of her husband, always trying to support his viewpoint, like a mother would try and make a child happy by not pointing out his mistakes. The soothing tone can again be seen Sarah Brady stretches her dialogues, indicated by the ‘-’ and the ellipses. Her slow tone shows how she had to perpetually connect with her husband and calm him down. This elaborate protectionism is amusing for the audience.
The playwrights have made this relationship amusing with the help of the dialogue exchange between the couple as well. Lawrence and Lee portray Brady as an ‘almost president,’ yet dependent on his wife to carry ‘her bag,’ with his belongings. Her constant reminders to Brady such as ‘not to overeat,’ show how both personalities are over dependent on each other, and would struggle in life without each others support. This overdependence is amusing for an audience as it is something not seen in reality. Moreover, the over-caring, motherly attitude of Sarah Brady can again be seen as she says ‘it’s time for Mr. Brady’s nap’ and that ‘he always likes to nap after a meal’. A lady instructing a man what to do in public was very unusual back in the 50’s. Hence, this over reliance of Brady on his wife is very amusing for the audience. Mrs. Brady’s also interrupts the photo-shoot at their arrival. She is ‘disturbed by the informality of the pose’ and hence asks Brady to put on his ‘coat’. This shows how the Brady’s had similar characteristics. Both were concerned about Matthew Brady’s public image. This constant strife for a perfect public image by both is also amusing for the audience. Thus, the dialogue exchange between the two also makes this a comical relationship.
According to me, the aspect that really stands out in their relationship is the role reversal between the two characters. In public, Brady ‘carries with him a built in spotlight’ and the crowd fall to an ‘anticipatory silence’ when he is about to speak. However, this is not the case when the two are alone. Sarah Brady is the one who dominates their personal relationship. It is Sarah Brady who has been the pillar of support for Brady as he almost always breaks down upon the slightest humiliation. This makes Mrs. Brady assume the role of a mother and caress his feelings. This role reversal is a amusing for the audience as they find this relationship erratic, and not according to conventions.
Hence, the use of stage directions, apt diction, and the exchange of dialogue between the two; their relationship has been made entertaining for the audience.