Cost of Living (play) Summary & Study Guide

Martyna Majok
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Cost of Living (play) Summary & Study Guide Description

Cost of Living (play) Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Cost of Living (play) by Martyna Majok.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Majok, Martina. “Cost of Living”. Dramatist’s Play Service. New York, NY. First acting edition. 2018. “The prologue, scenes seven, eight, and nine occur on the same Friday night in December, a week before Christmas. The rest of the play spans the months of September through December” (Notes on Setting, 4). As a play, the narrative unfolds primarily through dialogue, with stage directions that offer suggestions for action and also define important aspects of the characters.

The play begins with a Prologue, in which truck driver Eddie reveals to an unseen, unidentified listener some of the circumstances that brought him to the bar on this particular evening. Eddie is not a drinker, so his confessions are triggered and shaped more by what he has gone through than by any kind of alcohol consumption. Among the things he talks about are the relatively recent death of his wife, his experience of receiving mysterious text messages from her phone number (which he thought had been given to another cell phone user), and his experience of being invited to meet at this particular bar at this particular time by the sender of those texts, but being stood up.

The narrative proper then begins with a scene from the past, as identified by the above referenced notes on setting. The scene in question is that of the first meeting between immigrant Jess and well-off John, a wheelchair user as a result of having cerebral palsy. Jess has come to apply for the job of being John’s personal care worker, and after a somewhat confrontational interview, John gives her the job.

The next scene is another scene from the past, again as identified by the above-referenced notes on setting. This scene takes place when Eddie brings his ex-wife Ani to her apartment, action and conversation revealing that Ani is in a wheelchair as a result of a disabling accident. Things are tense between them, but Ani eventually allows Eddie to participate in her at-home caregiving.

This structural pattern repeats through much of the rest of the play – that is, scenes alternate between those involving Jess and John, and those involving Ani and Eddie. In the former storyline, John and Jess eventually become more comfortable with each other, a misunderstanding leading Jess to believe that John is romantically and physically interested in her, while he is in fact interested in a woman with whom he goes to school. In the second (Eddie-Ani storyline), the longings of the two characters for connection and affection eventually lead, in spite of Ani’s animosity, to a physical encounter that has sexual overtones but which ends with Ani almost losing her life. The John-Jess storyline ends with a confrontation that reveals John has no real trust in Jess, and with Jess running out in the snow.

The last John-Jess scene, as suggested in the above-referenced notes on setting, takes place in the present, as does the play’s final scene, which is identified as both Scene 9 and an Epilogue. In the aftermath of his conversation in the bar (i.e. the Prologue) Eddie brings Jess to his apartment, having found her sleeping in her car on a cold and snowy winter night. Conversation reveals that immigrant Jess has been sleeping the way she has in order to save money to send to her family in her home country (which country that is, exactly, is never explicitly identified). The lonely Eddie invites her to live with him at a reduced rent, so she can be safe and continue to save money. Jess is at first reluctant, but the end of the play seems to indicate that she will accept.

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