Beauty, written by contemporary playwright, Jane Martin is a one act play about envy. It is human nature to desire what one does not have. It is also common for people to think that the grass is greener on the other side without realizing that what they desire may possess certain disadvantages. This play showcases envy and personal discontent in which the two main characters want what the other has. Carla is envious of Bethany’s intelligence and Bethany is envious of Carla’s beauty. Both women long for each other’s characteristics and strengths, all the while, not recognizing the other person’s disadvantages and shortcomings of the very aspect they desire. In her play, Martin successfully draws great attention to the human folly of being envious by combining fantasy, irony and humor.
The use of fantasy is evident as Bethany explains to Carla that she found a “Lamp” on the beach and exclaims “there is a genie in this thingamajig” (1036). She goes on to explain that the genie offered her three wishes. Her first two wishes included $25,000 and for her uncle who was hit by two trucks to be healed, both in which were granted. The third wish is where Martin introduces the conflict of envy. Bethany envies Carla’s beauty so badly that she wants to use her third and final wish to ask for beauty. To Carla’s dismay, Bethany proclaims her desire “I want to be like you” (1037). “I want to be beautiful…Beauty is the real deal.You are the center of any moment of your life. People stare. Men flock. I’ve seen you get discounts on makeup for no reason. Parents treat beautiful children better. Studies show your income goes up. You can have sex anytime you want it. Men have to know me. That takes up to a year. I’m continually horny” (1038). The use of fantasy is expressed when Carla and Bethany are thrown on the floor by an explosion in which they exchange places. Each woman experiences what it’s like to be the other person. Carla announces “We both have the one thing, the one and only thing everybody wants (1039).
The irony in this play is that each character wants what they don’t have. When the genie grants that last wish and the women exchange places they realize that they have gained something they weren’t expecting… “different problems” as expressed by Carla (1039). We’ve all secretly wished to be someone else for a day to experience what we find appealing about someone we admire or envy without ever thinking that the person has their own set of problems and personal discontentment.