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What Issues Of Communication Are Raised In The Play 'Translations'?

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What Issues Of Communication Are Raised In The Play 'Translations'? The play 'Translations' by Brian Friel is in many respects an intelligent and enlightening metaphor for the situation in Northern Ireland. Throughout the play Friel uses his satirical twists and mixes of tragedy with comedy to express the vulgarity and hypocrisy in Ireland. Friel introduces a variety of extremely heavy topics dealing with societal problems such as generation gaps, communication and cultural difference. The play centres mostly on the tragedy of English imperialism as well as Irish nationalism. The themes that run through Translations are only an indication of the subject matter Friel begins to base his writings on. Translations may be located both temporally and spatially to a fixed point in Irish history. The characters hail from Baile Beag, renamed with the anglicised title of Ballybeg. The action of the play occurs over a number of days towards the end of August 1833. Before delving into the play it is clear, from these most general of points, that the main plot of Translations is a period of great significance in the colonial relationship between Ireland and England. ...read more.


Communication is complicated when individuals are selective in their choice of vocabulary, taking only that part of the language that gratifies their own desires. Jimmy knows only one English word "bosom", one that excites him. Likewise, Maire declares, "I want English", her purpose being to advance her prospects in America. To satisfy one's own desires would seem to be the sole purpose of language and any deviation from this is incomprehensible. Hence when Yolland struggles to come to grips with the Irish language, Manus is somewhat rude and says, "I understand the Lanceys perfectly but people like you puzzle me". Words are not only means of communication, they're signals too, but they mean different things to different people, as well as different cultures and they change through the passage of time. Jimmy learns the principles of agriculture from Virgil's Georgics but the archaic standards of agriculture mean nothing to the contemporary farmer Doalty. Lancey declares, "I do not speak Gaelic, Sir" showing a dual ignorance of the archaic language in which he was addressed and the ancient language that he imagines was spoken. ...read more.


In the foreground of the play the audience is presented with the British Ordnance Survey of Ireland, a process of mapping, renaming and anglicising Ireland. Running beneath the surface Friel portrays the clash between languages, and the use of education as a method of resolving the cultural and unequal relationship between colonised and coloniser. As the play draws to a close we as readers begin to realise the full extent of the English soldier's actions by renaming Ireland. In essence, they have 'destroyed an earlier civilisation' and have played a crucial part in Ireland losing their identity. Hugh tries to remain positive saying, "We must learn those new names." This appears to be the final nail in the coffin and the overhaul of culture as the hedge folk begin to accept their fate. In the midst of all the communication problems throughout the book, Jimmy's last words speak volumes to all, "...You don't cross those borders casually-both sides get very angry." My interpretation of this one particular statement is that communication is not only difficult, it's impossible. This is all too evident from not only this play, but in some respects the situation of the troubles in the world today. ...read more.

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This is a stellar literature essay. It delves to a profound level of detail in it's analysis, shows the examiner the candidate has an extensive knowledge of the play, it's purpose, and Friel's attitudes and values, which be assumed in ...

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Response to the question

This is a stellar literature essay. It delves to a profound level of detail in it's analysis, shows the examiner the candidate has an extensive knowledge of the play, it's purpose, and Friel's attitudes and values, which be assumed in light of the play's highly complex literal and symbolic nature. The candidate starts with a powerful introduction (though makes the mistake to damn the Irish with "vulgarity" and "hypocrisy", when it should be the English written instead), but still this is the only real quandary as the analysis to following is brilliant, discussing in detail the effectiveness and importance of scenes that involve issues of miscommunication (such as Maire and Yolland's ill-fated romance, and Lancey making a fool of himself in front of Jimmy Jack Cassie and the rest of the hedge-school). The answer is nicely written and is precise, though I would argue that the conclusion is a touch heavy-handed, making the essay conclude on a bit of a low-light. Jimmy Jack's warning not to be an "exogamein" as both 'tribes' get very angry is not so much a message that communication between cultures is impossible, but more a warning of the difficulties that arise when trying to communicate. It also very obviously deals with Maire and Yolland's relationship. Just be wary of being so heavy-handed in the future - make sure you don't make sweeping generalisations.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is exceptional. The candidate makes interesting and illuminating comments about the issues of communication and miscommunication featured in the play both in general and with regards to specific characters. As it is such an integral part of the play, it is good to see such an extensive analysis, though if time constraints limit you, do not feel pressured to reproduce quite the same amount of work, as this work is more than enough for a top grade.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is very good. The candidate utilises a number of analytical and comparative techniques and keeps their grammar, spelling and punctuation safely in check throughout the essay. It all suggests the candidate has re-read the essay to ensure they have not made any writing errors. This is something I greatly recommend all candidates do as it is an invaluable practise that can allow you to correct errors that even spell-checkers may miss. We all make errors without knowing about it, and only on proof-reading do we spot them so I advise candidates to always proof-read their work.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 10/08/2012

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