A Comparison and Contrast between Catherine and Theresa Paddy Cheyefsky's award winning television play "Marty", takes place in an Italian district of New York City in 1953. During the first act of the play, the audience is introduced to two Italian sisters, in their fifties, named Catherine and Theresa. Though Catherine and Theresa show obvious differences, the similarities lie in the heart of their old fashion need to tend to their children. As we get to know Catherine and Theresa, it is apparent that one of their biggest differences is their attitudes about life. Catherine has a very dismal outlook on life and everything around it. From the moment we meet Catherine, she is telling Theresa how "it's a curse to be old", referring to the pains in her left side, leg, shoulder, hip and right arm (1292).
She also mentions her fear of looking in the mirror, "for staring back at her would be an old woman with white hair, like those ladies in the park, wrapped in black shawls and just waiting to die" (1294). Later, she warns Marty of the "chill" outside and tells him to guard against catching a cold and pneumonia instead of admitting that it is a beautiful day (1301). Catherine gets so depressing that Theresa finally tells her, "Catherine, you are a blanket of gloom. Wherever you go, the rain follows. Some day, you going to smile, and we going to declare a holiday" (1300). Theresa, on the other hand, has a refreshing and positive outlook on life.
When she goes to visit her sister Catherine, she delightfully mentions the nice postcard her son Nicky has sent her. Theresa then tells Catherine live with her and Marty (Theresa's son) because she will be much happier there and they will be very happy to have her. Although, she knows it is breaking Catherine's heart because she is not wanted in her son's home, Theresa tries to turn it into a positive situation by indicating how much more personal space Catherine will have by moving in to her house (1303). When Marty begins feeling sorry for himself and calls himself ugly, believing that women are not interested in him, Theresa makes it a point to tell Marty that he is not an ugly man and persuades him to go out dancing in order to meet women (1288). Catherine and Theresa's differences not only lie in their attitudes but also in their social skills. Catherine's continuous criticisms and judgments of others keep people at an arms length.
Instead of trying to help Virginia with the baby, Catherine criticizes and demeans Virginia until she is at a point of complete frustration. Virginia, finally so irate, takes a bottle of milk and throws it against the wall. Catherine then falsely accuses Virginia of trying to throw the bottle of milk at her (1284). When Theresa begins to tell Catherine about the college girl that Marty has brought over the house, Catherine immediately says, "College girls are one step from the streets.
They smoke like men in a saloon" (1300). This is clearly an unfair judgment against a girl Catherine has not previously met. However, though they may be sisters, Theresa does not share Catherine's indifference to other people's feelings. To be exact, she is actually a very warm and understanding individual. When Virginia goes to her Aunt Theresa, practically in tears, begging for a little peace between she and her husband, Theresa, empathetic to their situation, decides to try to find a compromise. This is when she concludes that Catherine should move in with her.
Though Virginia tries apologizing for behaving like such a "terrible woman", Theresa warmly tells her that her feelings are completely understandable (1284-85). Yet at the same time, Theresa cannot help but to be sympathetic towards her sister's situation. Theresa realizes that Catherine is a difficult woman, but at the same time, she understands that Catherine is an old widow without a place to call home (1299). Perhaps Catherine and Theresa's differences in social skills are what leads them to have even bigger differences in priorities. Although Catherine loves her son Tommy, it is obvious that she is more concerned with her own happiness rather than his. When Theresa goes to see Catherine at Tommy's house, the only thing Catherine talks about is herself.
All she can say is, "What am I to do with myself?" and "I want to cook and I want to clean" (1294). All of her sentences start with nothing else but the pronoun "I". At no point did Catherine take into account the fact that her son is married and needs his own privacy. Thankfully, Theresa has a completely different set of priorities.
She is completely aware of how unhappy and lonely her son is and wants no more than to see him find a nice girl to marry. She even goes as far as asking her nephew Tommy if he knows of any nice places Marty can go to meet a girl (1286). With the many differences between Catherine and Theresa, they also share many similarities. On the surface, they are older widows who have dedicated their lives caring and nurturing their children. Now that their children are grown, Catherine and Theresa have entered the point where their children no longer need them the way they used to.
Catherine's son Tommy is married and has his wife Virginia to cook and clean for him. Theresa begins to realize the possibility that Marty will eventually find a girl he wants to marry and no longer rely on his mother the same way he did before (1294). Catherine and Theresa fear that this will lead to changes in their lifestyle. A change that is unfortunately sad, but inevitable.
Theresa attempts to stop this change by temporarily carrying on some of her sister's undesirable traits. The day Marty is supposed to have a date with Clara, Theresa purposely insults her, hoping she can convince Marty to stop seeing her. She later realizes that her actions are wrong and regrets what she has done (1301-02). Catherine and Theresa are examples of the popular term "the odd couple". Though they may share common blood, are both widows, and may even be close in age, their differences in attitude, relationships and priorities are peculiar. However, they are somehow able to see pass these differences and understand one another only in a way siblings know how.