The Setting of “Sure Thing” by David Ivis is important in terms of setting the mood as well as the context for the play’s main conflict. “Sure Thing” is set in a cafe where the the two main characters, Bill and Betty, awkwardly encounter one another. During their encounter, a ring of a bell continues to disrupt their connection. Despite the ringing bell, or because of the ringing bell, the two characters are able to establish a connection. The fact that they are ultimately able to establish a connection suggests many thing about relationships, such as that timing can play a major role in either beginning or not beginning a relationship.
For instance, the bell (and the bell’s timing) suggests that Bill’s responses to Betty’s questions may have been different, if the timing created by the bell’s interruptions had been different. As the “date” progresses, a series of quick and calculated questions and challenges are posed to each character in order to discover the other’s weaknesses. The text of the play is comprised of short and sharp lines that are quickly exchanged between Bill and Betty with the intention of getting to know one another. Basically, the conflicts throughout the play are in the form of man vs. an as well as man vs. self. However, the conflict in “Sure Thing” is a bit different than in other stories, in that it can be so easily altered by the ringing of a bell. Since the play has to do with human relationships, the man vs. self conflict arises upon the question of meeting another person you are clearly interested in. One, there is the struggle between oneself and the fear of making a mistake. There is a struggle between oneself and one’s perceptions of the conventions of dating. Also, there is a struggle between oneself and the other (between Bill and Betty).
Here, it seems clear that the author chose the names Bill and Betty to represent the overall conflict that plagues the average person in terms of relationships. For example, the conversation between Betty and Bill stats over every time the bell rings, but also starts over if and when one responds negatively to the other (or in a way that would be perceived as the other as negative or undesirable). Truly, there is no protagonist or antagonist in this play insofar as either Bill or Betty being able to be considered one or the other. The play begins with Bill walking up to Betty and asking if the chair next to her is taken.
She replies that the chair is taken. However, the bell immediately rings and Bill restates the question. This time, Betty says that it is not taken, but that she is expecting someone. Again, the bell rings, and Bill asks if the chair is taken again. This process continues, indicating a change in circumstances each time the bell rings, until Bill is able to take a seat next to Betty. What the bell does is it allows the circumstances to change. The bell also allows the conditions that might negatively affect one entering a relationship with another to be changed to accommodate the budding relationship.
This process continues throughout the entire play until the main differences between the two (differences that would have prevented a significant connection) are entirely erased and reversed. After beginning one way, repairing the situation, and starting over, the two realize that they are perfect companions, and agree to fall in love. It is difficult to isolate the play’s conflict to anything other than on a thematic level. Every time a conflict has a potential of presenting itself, the fantasy element of the play is that the conflict can be changed.
In the play, an everyday conversation between strangers is presented with an unlimited set of possibilities through the opportunities provided by a bell. Once the bell rings, the changes that “need” to be made are made, and the characters’ destinies are once again altered. The ability to go back into the past and fix something that was said reveals things about the power of language, which is one theme of the play. However, the bell also represents the power to deflect conflicts before they arise. With the bell, the opportunity for a world in which no one is hurt or offended is possible.
However, the bell also represents, on a comical level, a sound being made in the place of hypothetical “wrong answers. ” When the bell rings, the observer immediately knows that a wrong answer has been offered to either Bill’s or Betty’s question. However, the bell ringing also seems to portray the idea that people often hold too many expectations for others, and do not allow for error. However, the true point of the bell seems to be its way of communicating that there are so many influences at play that can determine whether two people establish a connection. In this sense, the bell is the play’s source of irony.
For example, the characters get into a discussion about Bill’s college GPA. First, Betty says that she does not care about labels or other distinctions. However, immediately, the bell rings, which represents Betty’s unhappiness with Bill’s college GPA. Given the order of the events, the ringing of the bell represents the irony of the situation, and Betty is inclined to overlook something as trivial as Bill’s GPA. Ultimately, many of the obstacles that would have normally prevented a potential relationship are “overcome” by the intervention of the bell. In fact, by the end of the play the two are agreeing with one another on almost everything.
Of course, the bell becomes silent. Thus, the conflict is resolved as the frequency of the bells diminishes. The theme of the play could be most accurately represented by the symbol of the bell itself. The bell tells us that relationships are created in ways that are random, arbitrary, or even silly. Furthermore, the bell represents something more about relationships, such as the type of arbitrary obstacles that people often construct that make it impossible to ever find a potential partner. Other themes of the play relate to relationships in a more broad sense, such as the many possibilities that one random encounter can create.
Each time a question has been asked that leaves room for a controversial or off-putting response, the bell rings to re-route the question (thus averting any controversy). In other words, an observer gets to see the ways in which Bill and Betty use language to either create or obstruct the potential for a relationship without their words actually affecting the outcome. Ultimately, this short play has the effect of speaking to the average person on an intimate level about relationships. And, given the way the play ends, the observer is left to believe that the connection or “relationship” will continue between Bill and Betty.