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Commentary on Act 1 of the book Translations by Brian Friel.

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Introduction

Commentary on Act 1 of the book Translations by Brian Friel The opening paragraph of the play Translations tells us in great detail about where the play is set. It is set in a hedge-school, which was a disused barn or hay-shed. The opening of the play makes us see that there are two means of isolation. The language binds together the community and in this play we will see how differences in language split society. Manus is teaching Sarah to speak as the play begins. He is being very patient with her and he thinks that it is important to teach her to articulate, 'Come on, Sarah. This is our secret'. When you see how Sarah is finding it hard to speak English it makes you feel that she is the symbol for Ireland's backward position. Jimmy on the other hand represents the educated civilised tradition of old Ireland. He is a scholar, however Sarah is the opposite. She is a contemporary Ireland, as she has no voice to speak out. She has no capacity for taking part in the modern world. Sarah just wants to become part of the society. The way Manus is pushing Sarah to speak, for example, 'Raise your head. Shout it out. Nobody's listening'. You feel that Manus does not want Sarah to be a nobody in the community, so he is helping her. The way that Sarah acts around Manus makes you feel that she fancies him, 'Manus hugs Sarah. She smiles in shy, embarrassed pleasure'. Jimmy is reading The Odyssey. As he is a scholar he can read books in Greek. He sees himself as a person in the story, 'Sure look at what the same turf-smoke has done to myself!' ...read more.

Middle

Manus asks if the Donnelly twins are coming, this is important as they are referred to throughout the play. They have sinister characters and they are subversion against the British government and British rule. Doalty says that he hasn't seen them about these days. After he says this he begins whistling and the atmosphere suddenly goes silent and alert. It goes silent because of the mention of the Donnelly twins. When Doalty goes silent it is unlike his character and he starts giving short uninformative sentences afterwards. The Donnelly twins are the most serious characters we have met, as they are early political terrorists. Maire tells Manus that she has a map of America and that the passage money came last Friday. This shows that she wants to leave Ireland and move to America where she thinks she will have a better life and will escape poverty. Manus reacts in a way that shows he cares about Maire; he doesn't want her to leave. She asks if he had applied for the new job yet in a new national school. He says no, maybe he says this because he wants to preserve the identity of Ireland. He stops talking as he sees that Sarah is listening into the conversation they are having, he obviously has feelings for her. Maire starts the conversation up again; this is the first time in the play that a conversation has hit personal level. Maire does not know why Manus would not want to apply for this job as it pays �56 a year. Both Manus and Maire are very close to one another; however there seems to be a lot of friction. ...read more.

Conclusion

When Owen translates what Lancey is saying he does not translate it word for word but simplifies it, as it would be useless to translate it fully as it would not appeal to them, he is making it sound better. Maire speaks in Irish so the English soldiers cannot understand her; Owen once again translates what she says wrong to make it sound better than it is. He is part of misleading the locals like the English are doing. This makes you wonder where his loyalties are. Yolland wants to learn Irish and thinks that their countryside is very beautiful. He is a very romantic character and is falling in love with Ireland; he is very different to Lancey. The British soldiers call Owen Roland. He is happy to be called this, to the British he is Roland and to the locals he is Owen. This shows that he is very two faced. Hugh is now drunk and is holding onto the edge of the table so he does not fall over. He is acting very forward and kind towards the soldiers saying that he is happy to offer friendship to them. Manus asks why Owen is not translating what Lancey is saying properly. Manus knows Owen is relying on defense of ambiguity to justify his deliberate falsification of Lancey's words. Owen does not see that there is anything wrong with Lancey and Yolland both calling him Roland. It is ironic because they want to change the Irish place names into English, 'Easy, man, easy. Owen - Roland - what the hell. It's only a name. It's the same me, isn't it? Well, isn't it?' This shows that Owen does not care about what he is called and about Ireland as he does not mind changing the names into English. 2,896 Words Sarah Meek 1 ...read more.

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