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Conflict is represented in a number of different ways in Sharon E. Cooper’s play Mistaken Identity. The play comically explores various kinds of conflict, including the following:
- Conflicts between ways of speaking in different countries, as when Steve, in the opening of the work, discusses the fact that the sliced potatoes that Americans call “French fries” are called “chips” in England.
- Historic conflicts between different countries, as when Steve alludes to the long-running conflict between the British and the French.
- Conflicts within families and particularly between siblings, as in the somewhat hidden conflict between Kali and her brother Rashid.
- Conflicting assumptions about sexuality, as in the conflicting assumptions of Kali, who is gay, and Steve, who is straight.
- Conflicts between the customs of different cultures, as in the conflict that Steve assumes (whether rightly or wrongly) exists between Indian and American notions about marriage.
- Conflicts between different national cuisines, as when Steve orders fish (in line with British custom) when he would plainly prefer something more obviously American:
STEVE: I invite you out on a lovely date. We eat fish and chips – when I would rather be eating a burger or lasagna –
- Conflicts about how Kali’s lesbianism might affect any chance that she and Steve have for a long-term relationship, as when Steve seems willing to marry her despite her sexuality, whereas Kali recognizes that her lesbianism makes a marriage between herself and Steve impossible.
- Conflicting assumptions about the appropriate behavior of women, as when Kali suggests that Steve merely wants a “doll” whom he can control rather than a fully independent human being with a mind of her own.
- Conflicting assumptions about what it takes to be familiar with another culture, as when Steve assumes that because he has seen a few movies about Indians, he is familiar with Indian culture, whereas Kali assumes that he is not.
- Conflicting ideas, on Kali’s part, about whether her brother should be told the truth about her sexuality.
- Conflicting assumptions about what it is like to live as a closeted gay, as when Steve says it never occurred to him, until Kali mentioned it, that revealing her sexuality to her brother might mean that she would never get to see her nieces again.
All in all, then, Cooper’s play, like many dramas, is full of conflicts that overlap with one another and that reinforce one another. Although the conflicts presented in this play are mainly presented from a comic perspective, there are definitely serious and potentially tragic undercurrents in the play as well – yet another example of the ways the play might be said to be shot through with conflicts.
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