Cream Cracker Under The Sette , Alan Bennet, Talking Heads
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How does Alan Bennett make the audience feel empathy for Doris in A cream Cracker under the Settee? A cream cracker under the settee is a dramatic monologue written by Alan Bennett in 1987 for television, as part of his Talking Heads series for the BBC. Doris is in her seventies. This hints at her being old and vulnerable in need of care and assistance. Moreover, she outlines that she does not "attempt to dust", this is maybe because she is physically unable or consumed by her thoughts. Zulema says that her "dustings days are over". This makes you feel sorry for Doris and deeply empathise with her. She may have a fear of dirt - rupophobia or she may just be an exceptionally sanitary person. Furthermore, Zulema exploits Doris' old age and feelings by saying she "doesn't have the sense she was born with", this maybe true but it is inconsiderate towards Doris' feelings. Then again, Zulema does have the right to speak her mind, as she has to put up with Doris's nagging all week. Doris is never satisfied with Zulema's housekeeping saying, "Zulema doesn't dust, she half-dusts" This emphasises Doris obsession with cleanliness, maybe suggesting that she has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).
For the whole of the monologue, Doris speaks to us directly. This enhances her vulnerability, yet she maybe biased, as we only know her point of view and nobody else's. This leads us to believe that Doris thinks everything revolves around her and she may come across as self-centred or self-obsessed. Then again, we feel great sympathy for Doris as she is isolated, cut off from reality, and maybe unwanted by a society, which considers her as an outsider. The setting changes throughout the monologue, as Doris travels to various parts of her home, nevertheless she remains in the same location. This connotes a very static nature, suggesting that Doris hardly ever goes out and mostly stays in the same room. According to her, "I never get a bona fide caller", this tells us the only visitor she probably has is Zulema. We feel great empathy for Doris because she is lonely, lacking a faithful companion. Furthermore, the moving from the comfy position of her settee possibly indicates the movement from a secure and comfy position in life to her current situation.
We feel empathy for both characters here since they never really experienced anything amazing in their lives; except for grief and now for Doris, loneliness. This could all change though if Doris decided upon leaving home and moving to Stafford House but apparently "You go daft there, there's nowhere else for you to go but daft" according to Doris. Perhaps Doris is against the idea of leaving home because all her memories of Wilfred will remain there or she might just feel afraid and unprepared to face the real world on her own at a late stage in her life. Towards the end of the monologue, Doris hears the voice of a police officer, enquiring as to why her home lights are off. Instead of asking for his help, she lets him leave. It is assumed by the audience that Doris later dies, because she feels the time is right. Also as the conclusions to Bennett's plays are usually miserable. Her last words are "Never mind. It's done with now, anyway." Then the "LIGHT FADES", a sense of desperation and sadness fill the readers heart and mind, no greater empathy can possibly be felt for Doris at this stage. This dramatic and powerful text leaves the audience wondering, hoping. This is without doubt Alan Bennett's cleverest writing technique!
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