Towards an understanding of the Cultural Context of ‘Sive’

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Here are some questions to help you forge your own understanding of the Cultural Context of the play ‘Sive’ by John B. Keane. Write a comment on this post answering one of the questions and remember to use quotation to support every point you make.

  1. What is good about Sive’s life in the play?
  2. In what way is her life restricted?
  3. What do you think of Thomasheen’s attitude to marriage?
  4. Describe society at that time in your own words.
  5. How is family life for Sive depicted?
  6. How important are the circumstances of Sive’s birth in the play?
  7. Choose a key moment in the play that is pivotal in describing the social world for a modern reader.
  8. How important is money in ‘Sive’?
  9. Compare and contrast the attitudes of Nanna and Mena towards Sive.
  10. What is Thomasheen’s attitude towards women in the play?
  11. Who has power in ‘Sive’ and how do they gain that power?
  12. To what extent is society in ‘Sive’ male dominated?
  13. Describe some of the customs and traditions described by Keane in this play.
  14. Discuss Keane’s treatment of education in this play.

10 thoughts on “Towards an understanding of the Cultural Context of ‘Sive’

  1. 9. Nanna wants what is best for Sive but Mena wants what is best for herself and doesn’t care what’s best for Sive.

  2. Question 8:
    The question of money dominates almost every line of this play. Set against a backdrop of rural Ireland governed by poverty, this play depicts the tragic consequences on people of the need for money. The whole notion of marriage is seen in terms of money and as the character of Mena develops we see that she despises poverty. Sean Dota and Thomasheen the matchmaker turn out to be two despicable people who use money to wield power over people.

  3. Sive is in love with a young man by the name of Liam Scuab. Liam however is not suitable according to Mena and Thomasheen. Mike refuses permission for Liam to marry Sive on the advice of his wife.

    Two local tinkers by the name of Pats and his son Carthalawn connive together and decide to help her escape from Sean Dota and marry Liam. The plot fails however as Thomasheen discovers the letter and destroys it.

  4. Thomasheen who is supposed to be the local matchmaker and bring together people who love one another in marriage questions Mena “What business have the likes of us with love?” His whole notion of love and marriage becomes linked with his own selfishness and self interest. Thomasheen is seen as a despicable character who has no interest in anything else but serving his own interests and pocket. He sees Sive’s marriage to Sean Dota as a source of money and that alone. He has no concern for the lack of love or the misery he is inflicting onto Sive.

  5. 4.
    Thomasheen’s attitude to marriage is that it is only a business and that love or the wanting or not for it is irrelevant. Thomasheen is a matchmaker so he is only used to the business side in getting his fee for setting up the couple:
    “T’isn’t going around stealing the dead out of their graves we are….isn’t it only bringing two people together in wedlock we are.”

  6. Question 8-

    The question of money dominates almost every line of the play. Set against a backdrop of rural Ireland governed by poverty, this play depicts the tragic consequences on people regarding the need for money. The whole notion marriage is seen in terms of money and as the character of Mena develops we see that she despises poverty and only cares about money. Sean Dota and Thomasheen the matchmaker turn out to be two despicable people who use money to control people. This is seen when Sean Dota offers Mena money to force Sive into marriage.

  7. 6. Sive’s circumstances at birth were very important in the way Sive was treated in her older life. Sive was born an illegitimate child. Her mother died when Sive was born and her father died over in England. Sive was taken in by her uncle Mike who told Sive’s mother that he would give Sive a good education. Sive wasn’t accepted by her aunt Mena. Her only true companion in the house is Nanna. Sive was treated differently to everyone else, she was chosen as Sean Dota’s last resort for a wife. Mike would not allow her to be with the man she loved because he was tempted by the thought of £200.

  8. 8.
    The question of money dominates almost every line of this play. In the middle of the twentieth century, which was a period of exeptional poverty owing to the lingering after effects of the Economic War, this play shows the tragic consequences on people who desperately need money. The whole notion of marriage is seen in terms of money and as the character of Mena develops we see that she hates poverty. It is easy to understand how, living under such poor circumstances, Mena and Mike could become attracted to the chance of making some money, but for what cost? ‘There is a giftof £200 for us … Long enough we were scraping’, Mena tells Mike.

  9. Nanna and Mena have very different attitudes when it comes to Sive. Sive is Nanna’s rock, she’d drop everything for Sive and this is proven when she is against the marriage of Sive and Sean Dota, she tries to get Mike to see sense of how wrong it is for Sive’s life, “Sive, Mike, Sive! Poor Sive! What are you doing to her? Is there no heart in you at all”. Nanna knows her son, Mike, knows this is wrong for Sive; he cant face her: “I have no heart somehow for looking her in the face”. As we can all tell Mena’s attitude towards Sive is quite the opposite to Nanna, she is blunt and sharp when it comes to Sive. Mena is the woman of the house but is over shadowed by Nanna and Sive, she has no time for Sive and feels Nanna is a burden, so as soon as a chance to get rid of her aswell as Nanna, of course she would not hesitate. She is killing two birds with the one stone. She does not think of Sive’s education, what is best, or her future but only the money she is being offered by Thomasheen Sean Rua, “And I would be rid of her. And £200 into the bargain. I would!”

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