Comparative Study, Emma and Sive
‘Emma’ is set in England in the early nineteenth century. Jane Austen succeeds in communicating the values of her culture and society. Money is highly valued in this society. People are judged by their wealth and material possessions. In some ways the cultural context of ‘Sive’ is utterly different to that of ‘Emma’.
It too is set in a stable rural society of families and neighbours, but quite unlike the novel, the main characters lead lives that seem to be deprived of all enjoyment or refinement.However, money is extremely important in ‘Sive’ just as in ‘Emma’. Rural Ireland in the 1950’s was blighted by poverty, and this is reflected in the play. People were measured in terms of what land and crops they possessed. Poverty was a sign of shame. Nana mocks Mena for her background ‘the cabin you came out of’.
Mr Knightely, the hero of ‘Emma’ is a member of ‘the landed gentry’. He belongs to those who were said to have ‘old money’, that is, he is a landowner whose estates yield him an income and he would be an ideal husband.Similarly in ‘SIVE’ Sean Dota is presented as a man of means ‘he have the grass of twenty cows’. Mena therefore seizes on the idea of Sive marrying him. What makes the match even more attractive for Mena is the 200 pounds that Sean Dota is prepared to give.
Although Mike, Mena’s husband, objects to the scheme at first, it is clear that for him, too, making money is what motivates him in life. He sees that money buys respect ‘Money is the best friend a man ever had’. It is only a matter of time before he will see Sive’s marriage as worthwhile.Whereas the attitude to money in ‘Emma’ was perhaps expressed in a more refined way, it can be seen in both texts that for some people money is more important than human happiness. Emma’s eagerness to make a match between Harriet and Mr Elton even though she preferred Robert Martin shows this interest in social standing, just as Mena’s scheming about Sive does.
In the cultural context of ‘Emma’ it matters too how money was acquired. Landed gentry are the most respectable.Those people like Mr Knightley, in possession of great estates had no need to work for a living. Money could buy leisure, freedom and power. Mr Knightley, as a rich man is free to come and go as he chooses.
People are impressed by his social standing. Similarly in ‘Sive’ Sean Dota is respected for the land and possessions he owns. In the play practically every character is affected by money or the lack of it. In ‘Emma’ the Bates’ are almost poor. Jane Fairfax , in marrying Frank Churchill will secure her future just as Sive will if she marries Sean.
Money reigns Supreme in both texts. LOVE AND MARRIAGE The value placed on love and marriage in the world of ‘Emma’ is closely connected with the attitudes to money in that society. Marriage in some ways is like a business transaction. It should be approached sensibly.
Both Jane and Harriet will have to marry men who can support them. Sive too, according to Mena, must be sensible in her choice of husband, Liam Scuab has nothing whereas Sean can offer her security. Marriage is clearly accepted as a business transaction in both texts.In Keane’s play. where avoiding poverty dominates all relationships, love and marriage is a matter of arranging a satisfactory bargain.
However through the marriage of Mr Knightley and Emma, Jane Austen shows that love can be valued for itself. Conversely, in SIVE the dominant view of love is cynical and even coarse. It reflects the lives of people who have been blighted by poverty. One of the most disturbing moments in the play is when Thomasheen asks ‘In the name of God, what do the likes of us know about love’.He says that Mike is more likely to ‘stick his snout in a plate of mate and cabbage’ than ‘run his fingers’ through Mena’s hair.
Romantic love has no place in their experience. Sean Dota’s love for Sive is seen as the lust of an old man for a young girl. However in ‘Emma’ romance does blossom between Emma and Knightley and Harriet and Mr Martin. The young lovers, Sive and Liam, express a pure love for one another that contrasts with the coarseness of their elders. Overcome by circumstances however, they are unable to see this love blossom. They have no control over their destiny in contrast with Emma and Knightley.