Private Lives Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. At the start of the play, is Elyot in love with Sibyl? How can the reader tell?

No. Sibyl demonstrates early on that she is very naive and inexperienced, not to mention insecure and in need of constant reassurance. From the start, however, Elyot is witty and intelligent, though detached from his new wife. He grows annoyed with Sibyl's habit of bringing up Amanda every chance she has in order to hear Elyot say negative things about her. He seems incredulous by Sibyl's lack of spirit (for example, his reaction to Sibyl's announcement that she will not get sunburned).

2. To Sibyl's dismay, Elyot does not care for her mother and believes that Sibyl married him in part to escape her. What do the differing attitudes about the mother reveal about Sibyl's character?

Sibyl's need for approval from her mother and insistence that Elyot grow to love her mother as well implies that Sibyl is still very young and naive. However, even Sibyl's remark that her mother is a fine person deep down shows that she is quite aware of whatever disagreeable nature her mother possesses and does not appear to be in conflict with it. Given her extreme innocence and attachment to her mother, it seems that Sibyl is quite sheltered and somewhat helpless.

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