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A contrast and comparison of the two characters, Susan and Irene, in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads

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Introduction

A contrast and comparison of the two characters, Susan and Irene, in Alan Bennett's Talking Heads There is a wide variety of connection between the two monologues. They both are about women who are trapped in some way. Her anti-social letter writing and her lack of friends trap Irene. You know that Irene has a lack of friends because she calls her pen "a real friend". Susan is an articulate woman trapped in a sterile marriage to an ambitious Anglican clergyman, she has taken to drink and begun an affair with the proprietor of an Asian grocery store in nearby Leeds. Susan is the vicar's wife in 'In Bed amongst the Lentils' and her unhappiness and loneliness is hard to analyse. Alan Bennett here shows that Susan is a witty and complex character. She is not so helpless that she could not have avoided a loveless marriage and a role, tying her to the church in which she has lost faith. Her disappointment seems to relate to her whole world and she uses drink to mask her loneliness and as a means to escape the real world. Susan is younger than Irene and the end of the monologues leaves you with the feeling that Irene is her future. Susan's cynical and often-ironic remarks make the monologues quite humourous. ...read more.

Middle

It is because he is 'so wrong' that the contrast between them actually draws them closer. It makes me feels as though this is the most uplifted Susan has felt for a long time. Irene's happiest time arrives at the end of her monologue, which is very unusual in Bennett's writing.The revealing last line in the ending paragraphs is about the policeman at No 56 and how "He wants reporting" Just from that one line, we know she is going to do just that, and this will lead to her imprisonment. The change in Irene is probably the most startling of all the pieces, for in prison, she finds freedom and acceptance and blossoms into a really fulfilled, busy person. It is ironic that she is forced to associate with the type of people who would have been her victims outside, and her former social conscience is at last given a practical way of expressing itself. In conventional society, Irene was a misfit; in a society of misfits, she becomes conventional. We begin by seeing Irene as a busybody, then as a malicious troublemaker and finally as an admirable, liberated woman. Prison, for Irene, is not gaol, but everyday life outside. Each monologue makes you feel sympathetic towards the characters involved because of the ordeal they have been through. ...read more.

Conclusion

Each character keeps up a pretence of "normality" and Bennett shows us, through the eye of the camera, how each person struggles to maintain a facade. The characters don't seem to talk to the audience, but at it. The final lines of both monologues are very revealing, Irene's especially. 'And I'm so happy' Previously it has been made clear that she had been very depressed for sometime so this is a startling change for her, even though she has become one of her typical victims: people that smoke, and have been to prison, and she's even beginning to consider the idea of relations with a man again. Her out come is positive and couldn't be in more contrast with Susan's bleakness through her lack of enthusiasm to better her life. We are given no indication at all whether Susan was just going to stay miserable or if she was finally become something she aspires to. I think that she fantasizes a lot, not fully thinking through it through. We had been told previously that she had fantasized about becoming a 'woman of substance' and now she is, all she can do is complain. Even though their out comes are different at this point their characters are quite similar as they require an outside force such as an introduction of another person to initiate a change within in them. As I said earlier it is as though Susan is Irene's past and Irene is Susan's future. ...read more.

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