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AS and A Level: Brian Friel

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Key words in English literature

  1. 1 Language – analysing language may involve exploring associations/connotations of words, semantic fields or image patterns, figurative language (similes, metaphors, symbols, personification, hyperbole etc.)
  2. 2 Form – analysing form may involve exploring genre and dramatic conventions (actions, use of stage space, dramatic techniques etc.)
  3. 3 Structure – analysing structure may involve exploring patterns and repetitions throughout the play, prolepsis (foreshadowing) and analepsis (flashback/echoes), the order in which events occur, characters speak, etc.
  4. 4 Audience – analysing audience response may involve exploring audience positioning, the use of dramatic moments (on and offstage), expectations, tensions, comedy, suspense, etc.
  5. 5 Pace and Timing – analysing pace and timing may involve exploring the rhythm created by dialogue (e.g. stichomythia), the use of pausing and silence, the balance between action and dialogue, the importance of stage direction.

Five things that A/A* students always do in their English literature essays

  1. 1 High quality answers use contextual information (e.g. Irish history) only in terms of its significance to the question. i.e. ‘bolt on’ information is best avoided.
  2. 2 Strong answers constantly embed quotations from the text, which act to 1) support arguments and 2) provide a platform for more detailed analysis.
  3. 3 Effective responses take into account the dramatic conventions being adopted by Friel (e.g. use of offstage space, dramatic irony, etc.)
  4. 4 Clear topic sentences are needed at the beginning of each paragraph. These should both address the title and delineate what the paragraph is going to cover.
  5. 5 • Strong answers avoid repetition and generalisation

How to plan your essays

  1. 1 Think of your essay as a skeleton framework (structure and argument), requiring flesh (textual detail and analysis) and clothes (terminology/context/relevant information)
  2. 2 Brainstorm your ideas around the wording of the title e.g. considering the significance of a theme requires you to develop arguments on not only its construction but its function and purpose within the text as a whole.
  3. 3 Some words in the title may be developed in terms of their different meanings e.g. identity = naming, individual identity, collective and communal identity, etc.
  4. 4 Paragraphs should be organised logically, with clear links made between them to encourage the sense of a fluent argument (e.g. linking words = conversely, however, similarly, etc.)
  5. 5 Questions which focus on passages or areas of the text for closer analysis demand that you balance your essay between detailed observation and cross referenced overview. Avoid going through passages chronologically.

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  1. Discuss the means by which Ibsen uses language to convey the nature of Helmer and Nora and the relationship between th

    He uses sarcastic language such as "Do I have to tell you". He is shocked that Nora doesn't already know because he expects everyone to have the same views as he does. Helmer sees himself as above Nora, this wasn't unheard of in this era, Men went to work whilst women stayed at home and looked after the children. We can tell that Torvald see's himself as superior to Nora, he thinks shes not going to succeed in being independent "Aha!

    • Word count: 848
  2. Write an essay exploring the injustice of white authority over the aboriginal people as explored in the novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.

    Aboriginal society is severely exploited by the unjust authority that the white society enforces. Thought out the first half of the novel, Jimmie comes under the influence of five main figures that abuse this assumed authority. Initially Mr Healy, an Irish farmer, who was "Constantly delivering Jimmie with ultermations and stepping up close" To him. Keneally cleverly employing the effects of juxtrapositioning by creating a contrast through imagery and language in close proximity to highlight the characters differences to depict a deception of authority.

    • Word count: 510
  3. The final act of translations has been criticised for lacking dramatic power and for ending the play in confusion. Do you agree?

    In the final act of Translations, everything flows along in a kind of way that doesn't give dramatic power, as the subject and the dramatic power it radiates is the same as it was in the beginning of the play. The subject is still the same, being that of the changing of place names and its effect on the people of Ireland, and it never changes, therefore the readers have not experienced a build up of tension to an exciting and unannounced event.

    • Word count: 1147
  4. Examine the dramatic and thematic significance of the role of crossing boarders in Translations.

    On another level, its sole purpose is to explore the themes of cross cultural conflict and communication. This themes are explored through the characters, them relationships and what happens to them in the play. We see attempts to cross boarders in many of the characters. The first example is our first introduction to Owen, Hugh's sophisticated and charming son who works for the British forces. It is made obvious from the description of him in the stage direction that he appears to have crossed from the typical rural Irish stereotype that has been formulated to a more commercial English one.

    • Word count: 1128
  5. The language in "The Royal Hunt of the Sun"

    The language Old Martin uses throughout the play is full of strong imagery and stressed emotions. Within his first speech he describes his image of Pizzaro using spiritual qualities 'my bright image of salvation' He shows a desperateness of character to please Pizzaro 'when I'd have died for him.' Through this we can see how Pizzaro's status affects other characters within the play. Pizzaro's high status is portrayed again when first meeting the Spaniards. Each shows an eagerness to serve through being addressed and responding with 'sir', this suggests they feel unimportant in his presence.

    • Word count: 1537
  6. How does Friel involve his audience in the conflict between coloniser and colonised in his play 'Translations'

    During the complication of the play, Hugh discusses the difference between the English and the Irish languages. "English succeeds in making it sound ... Plebian". Hugh is referring to the translation from Irish to English and the fact that the poeticism of the words are lost in the translation and the phrase becomes "Plebian" in his eyes. The three dot ellipses used in this sentence adds to the emphasis of the word Plebian and the audience realises the passion that Hugh has for language, and this leads them to feel empathy for his cause.

    • Word count: 929
  7. 'Translations' is essentially a play about change, consider the ways in which Friel introduces and explores this theme in Act 1.

    A further sort of change is that Friel's drama describes the arrival of English soldiers to a remote section of Ireland as they attempt to create the first accurate map of the area. Making the map, however, means renaming places and eroding tradition, in addition to preparing the area for military occupation. The two characters Captain Lancey and Lieutenant Yolland are the characters that play the English soldiers, which shows that they have power. This fixation about whether knowledge is power could also be an essential theme in the play.

    • Word count: 1708
  8. In what ways does Brian Friel establish the theme of language and communication in Act I of 'Translations'.

    It also introduces some of the key characters. The author makes it known to audiences the location where the play begins and the financial positions of the characters involved. The act opens up in a hedge-school in a rural Gaelic speaking area. The school is located in a barn so we know that the community is made up of farmers, and commonly farmers are known often to be in financial difficulty. The context of the play also hints at how poorly developed and behind in the industrialisation of the western world Ireland is, later in the act we learn that this is indeed the reason for poverty and hardship for this community.

    • Word count: 1857
  9. The Use of Language in the Cherry Orchard

    Charlotta's slightly indifferent and strange way of speaking defines her separation from the rest of the characters and her position as a minority. Text and Sub Text. A lot of what is conveyed to the audience is not contained within what is actually said but within the sub-text of both the speech and the stage directions. A good example of this is in Ranyevskaya's attitude towards the Cherry Orchard. It is clear that Ranyevskaya has a great love of the Cherry Orchard, yet she refuses to talk about its fate, often changing the subject when Lopahkin attempts to bring it up.

    • Word count: 817
  10. The language used in 'Blood Wedding'

    The mother-in-law's earliest dialogue is extremely symbolic and helps to convey the situation of the Wife and Leonardo, the water is expressed as precious and sacred and the horse is conveyed as isolated and numb. From the powerful use of symbolism we can deduct that Lorca may be trying to portray the Wife and Leonardo's relationship in this particular song. The water being the Wife and the Horse Leonardo, "Of the great big stallion, wouldn't drink the water deep." (pg9)

    • Word count: 1561
  11. Taking as your starting point pg.76 "Maire enters" to pg.78 "It didn't last long, did it?" discuss the play's impact as a 'doomed love story.'

    She attempts to appear normal but she is in acute distress, on the verge of being distraught." This is a deliberate attempt by Friel to show the tragically predestined result of this 'doomed love story.' Friel reminds us of the fondness that Maire has for Yolland, in Act 3 when Maire recounts the last time she saw Yolland. Whilst doing so she reminds the audience of the difficulty the two have in communicating with one another verbally but easily Maire understands Yolland through gesture, "he pretended to get cross," and how much they enjoyed each others company, "And he went off laughing."

    • Word count: 1292
  12. 'Friel creates a dramatic world that, from the start, is full of conflict.' To what extent would you consider this an accurate statement? Take as your starting point the opening scene up to the entrance of Hugh.

    This could be seen as conflict of luxuries of education, or simply as a disregard for a human right (to be educated). One starts to feel for those people who have do not have a privileged education, and makes you question how do they stand a chance? All of the characters present in this play are representative of particular views and beliefs, all of characters representing different aspects of the same political process, the transformation of antiquated Gaelic society into modern British colony, this in its self creates conflict.

    • Word count: 1040
  13. 'Our response to Hugh is typical of the way that Friel never allows us to make simplistic assumptions: we are likely to be critical and admiring of him in equal measure.' Discuss.

    Not only that but he seems to show no signs of changing. He speaks to his class in Latin and randomly asks them to translate, "Caerimonia nominationis- Maire?" So not only is he living and teaching in the past but he is also imposing his outdated attitude onto his students, he is almost 'dragging them down with him.' Hugh is completely out of touch from the real world and even seems ignorant to who the Donnelly twins are, 'Ah. Nora Dan can now write her name- Nora Dan's education is complete.

    • Word count: 1642
  14. Translations - Character Study.

    One such example is when his father Hugh applies for a new job at the national school. Manus feels he can not apply (even though he would probably be better suited for the job) as he will be going against his father's wishes. This angers Maire as Manus promised her he would go for the job. This is one of the first apparent signs of a strain being put on their relationship, which would eventually lead to its downfall. Words that describe Manus: optimist, kind, considerate, encouraging.

    • Word count: 1994
  15. Do you agree that the multi-lingual policy in Swiss schools helps to create the Swiss identity? Explain your answer.

    All these help to create the Swiss identity. They are able to communicate easily with other Swiss. Through the learning of another language of the federation, pupils gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the language and the people speaking that language. Ultimately, the Swiss live harmoniously together despite their many differences. Another way in which the Swiss identity is created in pupils is through social education. Local history and traditions, customs, rites, folk stories and proverbs are taught to the pupils. This is to instil pride in the different cultures and to inculcate a sense of rootedness to the country.

    • Word count: 794
  16. Compare the presentation of the colonial situation in 'A Passage to India' and 'Translations', paying particular attention to the use of form, structure and language, and evaluate the significance of the contexts to the meanings of the texts.

    On a smaller scale, Forster establishes in 'A Passage to India' the importance of the individual, partly through the character of Mrs Moore, who believes, "Though people are important, the relations between them are not." Interestingly, this concept goes beyond his belief in personal relationships, which are strongly expressed in 'Howard's End". Forster adopts the use of an omniscient narrator in 'A Passage to India', which was a traditional and favoured method of novelists writing in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    • Word count: 2586
  17. What do you find of significance in Friel's presentation of the world of the play?

    The first is that it shows how the Irish were rebelling against the English. By the main setting being the hedge-school the audience is able to realise that the Irish were determined to educate themselves despite the enforced restrictions of the English. The audience therefore see the characters that attend the hedge-school to be strong-willed and respect them for their actions. Another reasons for the setting could be that it coincides with one of the main themes of the play, education.

    • Word count: 2457
  18. How are the characters and their relations established in Act one of Brian Friel's " Translations".

    His lame personality is also shown in his relationship with Maire. One of Maire's stage directions is, ' Again Maire ignores Manus ' This stage direction sums up Maire and Manus' relationship. It is made clear to the audience or reader that Maire and Manus have fallen out and instead of acknowledging that Maire wants nothing to do with him and moving on with his life, Manus desperately chases after her in hope of winning her back. His reluctance to move on shows how weak he is.

    • Word count: 2786
  19. Turn to Act two, scene two and remind yourself of the whole scene. This is a very unusual love scene. How effective do you find it and how does it relate to the main concerns of the play as a whole?

    However ironically the two individuals think and perceive things differently and that promise is never fulfilled. Friel has opened the scene with music rising to a crescendo as Yolland and Maire approach running hand in hand and laughing. They begin to speak to each other after slowing down and eventually stopping. Maire speaks first saying "That leap across the ditch nearly killed me" (pg 49). This being Maire's first words have a double meaning, other than the obvious one, a young Irish girl and an English soldier who have crossed the guilt of being together which is seen as treachery, it also shows the rejection of Maire's Irish roots.

    • Word count: 1565
  20. What does Translations have to say about the individual and the community?

    We know from historical references that the English did anglicise much of Ireland, resulting in a loss of language, as shown with Sarah's particularly similar situation. As the play progresses in the beginning, Sarah's speech begins to improve, but when the English come, Sarah's speech is lost again, which symbolises the English power over Ireland and how they are able to make change to the language with Sarah individually and the whole of Ireland nationally. Other scenes such as in act two scene one, we see stage directions create a bond between brothers and indicate a distance between cultures; as

    • Word count: 1131
  21. Commentary on Act 1 of the book Translations by Brian Friel.

    This is not very scholarship like of Jimmy as he relates the text in a very un-scholar like way to himself. He also says things that are very sexually orientated, 'if you had a woman like that about the house, it's not stripping a turf-bank you'd be thinking about-eh?' and 'she can't get her fill of men'. Jimmy asks Manus whom he would pick out of Athena, Artemis and Helen. All of these people are characters from the book Jimmy is reading.

    • Word count: 2931
  22. “Drama Shows Us That Those Who Control Language Dictate the Events of the Play” Compare Your Texts In the Light of This Opinion.

    Both plays demonstrate how one language can evolve and secure displacement over another very convincingly. In The Tempest, Miranda belittles Caliban's original language as "gabble" and "babble." In addition, Prospero also makes Caliban seem subordinate through his art and power. Shakespeare uses the theme of social hierarchy to insinuate an importance it holds over Prospero's control.................................................................................. In Translations, it is the colonisers that control language, but Friel uses townspeople like Hugh to dictate the events of the play. Friel presents a stark opposition between the Irish people of Baile Beag, who speak Gaelic and who trace their roots back to

    • Word count: 1091
  23. With one extract of your choice, examine how the author uses aspects of real everyday talk in their dialogue.

    Super to see you.' This shows immediately that they have a reasonably close relationship as she addresses Bridget by her first name. The fact that she is hosting the party also gives her power from the beginning. Bridget has only three turns in the extract, showing her embarrassment by speaking only when necessary such as when she is asked a question. 'Where is he?' 'He had to work.' This approach of a number of interrogatives re-enforces Una's character and also means she is setting the agenda of the conversation. The declarative used by Bridget, also has some connotations around it.

    • Word count: 1064
  24. Use of Language in the play 'Blood Wedding'.

    We can see that Lorca has represented the mother as being very over protected of the Bridegroom. He shows the audience this by his use of language, we notice that the mother likes to fuss around her son a lot e.g. making sure he has eaten before going out tot the vineyard. "Son take some food with you......" When the son tells her "no" and that he will eat grapes at the vineyard by cutting them with a knife. This is when the tension rises between the mother and the bridegroom. The mother becomes cross and starts to shout about how knives are dangerous, this when we find out that she lost her husband and son due to being stabbed by a knife.

    • Word count: 1108
  25. "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

    Verse Unlike The Mechanicals, Royalty confirm their high status by speaking in verse. They speak in an iambic pentameter, lines of ten syllables, which emphasises their 'intelligence' with how fluent and exotic their speech is; "Therefore fair Hermia question your desires, Know of your youth, examine well your blood." We only see The Mechanicals and Royalty in one scene together and in this scene, The Mechanicals are acting in the play they have devised to perform at Theseus' wedding, and their language and vocabulary is completely different as it is far more complex and fluent as it is rhyme.

    • Word count: 848

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