Please give 3 examples of how Julia is a realist (as opposed to an Idealist) in The Rivals.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Lydia's idealism is contrasted with Julia's sense of realism.  This can be seen in the exposition of the drama.  In Act I, scene 2, Lydia feels overwhelmed with her predicament.  She believes that she will have lost "Beverly" forever.  In the midst of a "lover's spat," Lydia believes that the damage is irreparable.  Julia is more realistic in viewing their condition:

If he is as deserving and sincere as you have represented him to me, he will never give you up so.  Yet, consider, Lydia, you tell me he is but an ensign,  and you have thirty thousand pounds. 

There are some distinct elements of realism in this quote.  The first is how Julia essentially undercuts the drama intrinsic to Lydia's sense of Romantic idealism. Essentially, Julia says that "everything will be fine."  At the same time, her realism is present when she raises in the issue of Lydia's wealth.  Immersed in her own romantic notions of the good and courtly love, she fails to acknowledge the reality of wealth.  Julia speaks to this early on because she understands the reality that governs the world in which both lovers live. Julia's words are balanced in their approach.  They speak to the condition of love that exists between both, while validating the realistic concerns of the world around them. In her acknowledgement of both how the quarrel between Lydia and Beverly will be resolved and the issue of money that exists as a reality that Lydia would not wish to acknowledge, Julia's realism is evident.

When Julia speaks with her beloved Faulkland in Act III, sc. 2, her realism is also evident.  In the early portion of their exchange, Faukland criticizes Julia because she does not display herself with fidelity.  Suggesting that Julia carries on as a "treason to constancy," Julia speaks with a realism that reflects balance and understanding intrinsic to her characterization:

I can never be happy in your absence.  If I wear a countenance of content, it is to show that my mind holds no doubt of ray Faukland’s truth.  If I seemed sad, it were to make malice triumph, and say that I had fixed my heart on one who left me to lament his roving and my own credulity.  Believe me, Faukland, I mean not to upbraid you when I say that I have often dressed sorrow in smiles, lest my friends should guess whose unkindness had caused my tears.

The need to wear a "countenance of content" is one element that reveals Julia's realism.  She recognizes that one of the realities that women of the time must endure is the need to masquerade true feelings.  The need to carry on despite her pain is another aspect to this.  Julia's realism compels her to have to "dress sorrow in smiles," recognizing the world in which she and women like her live. Julia is honest in how she has to adapt to life in Faulkand's absence.  She is realistic in this depiction of what it means to be a woman of the time.

The exchange between she and Faulkand reflects the realistic way in which she views love.  Julia loves Faulkand with sincerity and carries herself with a strong sense of devotion towards him.  Yet, she is not going to be swayed to such unrealistic extremes in her love that she loses practical perspective.  Faulkand displays this disproportional approach in his aspersions and doubts over Julia. She won't follow suit. When she says, "I see you are determined to be unkind.  The contract which my poor father bound us in gives you more than a lover’s privilege," one sees the realism with which she views love.  Julia is realistic. She understands that love can cause emotions that are counter productive, something that Faulkand has shown.  It is a realistic statement that reflects how love and convention can conspire to create "unkind" and cruel conditions.  Julia is realistic in her honest assertion of the need to "call it off."  Julia views love with her heart, but also is realistic enough to suggest that if it serves as a pretense for abuse and pain, it might be an improvement to simply repudiate it.  Her realistic and balanced approach is evident in the three excerpts.

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