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You Can’t Take It With You English Language Arts 20-2 Unit Two Introduction • allusions • characters • setting • plot You Can’t Take It With You Allusions An allusion is one of the richest and most demanding literary devices. Meaning “reference”, it calls on the vast wealth of history, religion, literature, and mythology. It rewards readers in direct proportion to their background knowledge by referring to ideas and things they recognize. The magic of allusion is its shorthand. A single name – Bin Laden, Lewinsky, Joe Millionaire, Austin Powers - can trigger a host of associations, as can a brief word or phrase – consider 911, Survivor, collateral damage. Throughout You Can't Take It With You, you will come across many allusions. You may be familiar with some, while with others you may draw a complete blank. Click on the links in the lessons to explore these allusions in more detail. They will enable you to better understand the play and the world of the 1930's. You Can’t Take It With You It's OK to dream. And if you are truly daring, go ahead and follow them. That's the joyous message of You Can't Take It With You, the Pulitzer Prize winner for Best Play 1936. So don't be stressed by today's rat race, consider life as Grandpa Vanderhof, the proud patriarch of the play's wacky Sycamore clan, defined it in the 1930s. You Can’t Take It With You Grandpa Vanderhof walked away from his Wall Street job and simply kept walking. Now, some years later, Grandpa fills his days by collecting snakes and frequenting commencements at nearby Columbia University. His daughter, Penny Sycamore, spends her days writing bad plays on a typewriter accidentally delivered to their house and never returned to its rightful owner. Penny's husband, Paul, makes fireworks in the basement with help from his assistant, Mr. De Pinna, a gentleman who delivered ice seven years ago and forgot to leave. The Sycamore clan also includes Penny and Paul's two daughters, Essie and Alice. Essie makes candy and practices ballet to the xylophone accompaniment of her husband, Ed Carmichael, who also operates a printing press out of the family home. You Can’t Take It With You Finally, there's Alice, the sole "normal" member of the family. A secretary at a prestigious Wall Street firm, Alice falls in love with her millionaire boss' son, Tony Kirby. Complications occur when the couple arranges for their families to meet and Tony brings his parents to a dinner party at the Sycamore's one night earlier than planned. A riotous evening, complete with a chaotic confrontation and actual fireworks, ensues when the Kirbys meet the unprepared Sycamores. In addition to being wildly entertaining, You Can't Take It With You offers an inspiring thought - go ahead and pursue your dreams, it's a lot healthier and less stressful. This ageless message has touched audiences who've enjoyed this often- produced classic throughout the years. Grandpa Vanderhof put it best: "Life is kind of beautiful, if you just let it come to you." You Can’t Take It With You Martin Vanderhof Rheba Donald - Grandpa - housekeeper, cook - Rheba’s boyfriend Penelope Sycamore Mr. De Pinna Alice Sycamore - Martin’s daughter - former ice deliveryman, – youngest daughter now helps with fireworks Tony Kirby - son Paul Sycamore Boris Kolenknov Mr. Kirby - Penny’s husband - Essie’s dance teacher Mrs. Kirby Elsie Carmichael Gay Wellington Henderson - eldest daughter - a drunken actress - IRS agent Ed Carmichael Olga Katrina Department of Justice - Elsie’s husband - grand duchess/waitress - three agents You Can’t Take It With You At first the Sycamores seem mad, but it is not long before we realize that if they are mad, the rest of the world is madder. In contrast to these delightful people are the unhappy Kirbys. The plot shows how Tony, attractive young son of the Kirbys’, falls in love with Alice Sycamore, and brings his parents to dine at the Sycamore home on the wrong evening. The shock sustained by the Kirbys, who are invited to eat cheap food, shows Alice that marriage with Tony is out of the question. The Sycamores, however, though sympathetic to Alice, find it hard to realize her point of view. Meantime, Tony, who knows the Sycamores are right and his own people wrong, will not give her up. Nothing has been said as of yet in regards to the strange activities of certain members of the household involved in the manufacture of fireworks, or to the printing press set up in the parlour, or of Rheba the maid and her friend Donald, or of Grandpa's interview with the tax collector when he decides that he does not believe in income tax, or why the Grand Duchess of Russia, Olga Katrina, has been seen in the Sycamore kitchen making blintzes. You Can’t Take It With You A Comedy In Three Acts Act I - a Wednesday evening, in two parts. Act II - a week later. Act III - the next day. The play is set in the home of Martin Vanderhof, New York, 1938. (Keep in mind that during this point in history, the world was still in the midst of an economic depression and on the threshold of World War II.) Refer to the "Course Notes Topic" of the ELA 20-2 Discussion Board to download and print off a copy of the stage setting for this play. You Can’t Take It With You • Will Mr. Kirby come to his senses and make amends with the Sycamores? • Will Tony and Alice marry and live happily ever after? • Will the IRS ever get Grandpa to pay his lifetime's worth of income tax? • The answers to all these questions, as well as explosions, togas, drunk women, acting, limericks, snakes, kittens, blintzes, ballet, and fireworks are all a part of You Can't Take It With You. • You will find your copy of You Can't Take It With You on pages 200-271 of On Stage 2. Use Lesson Three to guide your thinking as you read through the play. • Enjoy your reading!!
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