The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

The setting of The Show-Off is the Philadelphia home of Mr. and Mrs. Fisher. Clara, their oldest daughter and wife of Frank Hyland, stops by one evening to bring her mother some candy. They discuss younger sister Amy’s infatuation with Aubrey Piper, a young man who visits to court Amy. Mrs. Fisher says, “It looks like a steady thing. And you never in your life heard anybody talk so much, Clara—I don’t know how she stands him.”

Clara reveals that Frank knows Aubrey, who has misrepresented himself to Amy. Aubrey claims that he is the head of the Pennsylvania Railroad freight department, but he is merely a clerk there. Aubrey is also not wealthy: Frank says that a clerk earns no more than one hundred fifty dollars per month. However, they all agree that Amy will ignore their warnings that Aubrey is a deceitful show-off. When Amy enters the room, the audience soon sees that she is bratty, headstrong, and interested only in making herself attractive for the evening. By contrast, Clara is sensible, Frank is dreamy and preoccupied, and Mrs. Fisher is a tart-tongued but warmhearted gossip.

Aubrey arrives and soon manages to irritate everybody. For instance, since Joe Fisher is an inventor, Aubrey claims to have invented a formula to prevent rust but says the industrialists refused to pay him the millions he deserved for it. Joe says later that in fact the antirust formula was his own idea. When Aubrey finally leaves, Mrs. Fisher sternly talks with Amy, advising her to look for a man who will be able to support her, but Amy defiantly says that she will marry whom she chooses.

In act 2, six months later, Amy and Aubrey are married. Aubrey arrives with the news that they need to buy a house but laughs off Mrs. Fisher’s advice that he should buy one that he can afford. Aubrey departs, saying that he wants to go look at automobiles. Mr....

(The entire section is 770 words.)