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Comment on Friel's exploration of Anglo-Irish relations in this extract.

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Introduction

Comment on Friel's exploration of the relationship between the British and Irish in this extract (38-43) By analysing the symbolism of the characters within this extract and the significance of Friel's use of stage directions we are able to understand the ways in which Friel explores the relationship between the British and Irish. Owen demonstrates a passive response to the English presence Ireland and could be seen as a collaborator betraying his Irish origins for financial or social gain. In the 18th Century English drama frequently used the stage-Irishman as a comic device and was often portrayed as a quarrelsome heavy drinker. The lack of traditional English virtue in the stage-Irishman resulted in the assumption of an air of superiority amongst English audiences over the Irish people. In this passage Friel has altered this stereotype. Owen, rather than epitomising the stage Irishman, is English in his characteristics (keen to get on with the job). Owen seems to be cooperating with the English, and is 'now doing... Yolland's official task.' This clearly demonstrates a sort of submission to the English, which is also noticeable through Friel's stage directions; Owen is 'on his hands and knees,' while Yolland sits with his 'legs stretched out before him' with his 'eyes closed'. ...read more.

Middle

It is evident that he has already fallen in love with Ireland and its culture. He says that he will 'be very, very happy here'. He describes Baile Beag as 'heavenly' and announces that he feels 'very foolish to be working here and not to speak [the] language, but [he] intend[s] to rectify [this].' Furthermore, the Irish air 'has made [him] bold,' and he even talks of standing up to Lancey, and says that he 'wasn't intimidated' when Lancey screamed at him. This suggests that Yolland, ironically enough, is determined to preserve the cultural values that his official task obliges him to eliminate. This is also evident when Owen asks what they are trying to do, to which Yolland replies 'good question.' The vagueness of this reply implies that Yolland is questioning what he is doing in Baile Beag, and that he is beginning to realise the implications of the English presence in Ireland. Manus and the position that he takes in relation to the situation in Baile Beag is symbolic of the hatred of the English presence in Ireland, and is perhaps comparable with the IRA of the period which Friel was writing in. ...read more.

Conclusion

Friel portrays the relationship between Owen and Yolland as one where the cultural differences are meaningless, and a sense of equality begins to develop between the two characters 'Now... where have we got to...? George!', 'Yes I'm listening.' Conversely, Captain Lancey assumes an air of superiority with the Irish natives when he suggests that "Ireland is privileged' (page 34). The pair are connected through their mutual sense of cultural ambiguity. Yolland is caught between his English heritage, and his newfound love of Ireland. They seem to have an almost student-teacher relationship 'we met it yesterday in Druim Luachra,' 'a ridge! The Black Ridge!' It could be that their relationship is an example of what a peaceful reaction to the situation can produce. By analysing the symbolism of the characters in this passage we are able to understand how Friel explores the relationship between the British and the Irish, including the different reactions to the English occupation including the condemnation of unfounded hatred of the British, and even what benefits adaptation to cultural change can bring. ...read more.

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