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According to Seamus Deane, Translations is a play about

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Introduction

According to Seamus Deane, Translations is a play about "the tragedy of English Imperialism". How far would you agree with this statement in relation to both Translations and Heart of Darkness? INTRO Although the location, language and structure of Brian Friel's Translations differs unmistakably from that of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, the topic of colonisation remains central to both. While the supposed sophistication of 'civilised' colonists is deconstructed in Conrad's novella to reveal man's common 'darkness', Friel's play deals with the ways in which the consciousness of an entire culture is fractured by the transcription of one landscape (Gaelic, classical and traditional) for another (Anglo-Saxon, progressive and Imperialistic). 1 Friel uses the apparently passive plotting of an Ordnance Survey map to emphasise the loss of indigenous Irish tradition, social history and heritage felt by the natives of County Donegal in Ireland. The translation of the place-names automatically eliminates the secrets buried within the original name; it distorts rather than restores the ontological nature of the place-name. Friel uses Owen to expose the Imperialist outlook on 'standardisation' during his battle with Yolland over "Tobair Vree": He begins a long discourse on how Tobair Vree came to acquire its name, identifying a well that once existed nearby and has long since dried up, with "Vree" an erosion of the Irish "Brian". He then asks Yolland: "do we keep piety with a man long dead, long forgotten, his name eroded beyond recognition, whose trivial little story nobody in the parish remembers?" ...read more.

Middle

deliberate progress", reveals the suffering she has endured under colonial domination through her visibly "wild sorrow" and "fear of some struggling, half-shaped resolve". Her "formidable silence" contrasts wholly with Kurtz's "ability to talk". As a musician, politician, poet and humanitarian his "inextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression" is equated with political power, thus giving Kurtz "a sense of real presence" which is evidently lacking amongst the native Africans who have become disassociated from their past, their origins and their control over the future. Their only capability in expressing themselves is through their appearance of "dumb pain". Exactly like Friel's natives, the original inhabitants of the Congo are "imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of...fact". 5 "Constructing maps as innocently mimetic ignores the fact that maps are productions of complex social forces," states post-colonial critic Simon Ryan. "They create and manipulate reality as much as they record it." It could therefore be considered that the construction of a "new" map clears the way for the projection and subsequent establishment of a new order, a colonial order. Following this line of thought the map now becomes a manifestation of the desire for control rather than the gathering and recording of natural, geological information. Friel uses Captain Lancey in order to demonstrate the ruthless command of English Imperialism through his threats to "shoot all livestock" and "embark on a series of evictions and levelling of every abode" as punishment for refusing to cooperate and obey. ...read more.

Conclusion

The driving force behind the viciousness of Kurtz, and colonisation on the whole, is shown to be greed: "'My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my -' everything belonged to him". Kurtz has noticeably no control over his all-consuming greed as, without boundaries, there is "nothing on earth" to enforce authority over him. Towards the end of the novella Kurtz is depicted as almost megalomaniacal through his desire "to swallow all the air, all the earth, all the men before him". He does not hide the truth; that he rules through violence and intimidation, thus reducing the illusions of colonisation to merely "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves" by means of "forgotten and brutal instincts". 9 In summation, while Friel's Translations successfully reveals to the audience that the enforced supremacy of an Imperialist agenda forever alters, in this case literally, the landscape, Conrad too summarises the disillusionment of Imperialism through the death of Kurtz. He entered the jungle with the ideals and altruistic intention of civilising the indigenous peoples, but his last words "The horror! The horror!" express his realisation of the true, tragic nature of Imperialism: "to tear treasure out of the bowels of the land", "with no more moral purpose at the back it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe." Page 1 of 1 Jo Maund 13SLR ...read more.

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