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How is contemporary society portrayed in 'Talking Heads'?

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Gillian Hardie How is contemporary society portrayed in 'Talking Heads'? We have been studying three different monologues written by Alan Bennett. They are 'Her Big Chance' involving Lesley an actress, 'Bed Among the Lentils' with Susan, a vicars wife and 'A Chip in the Sugar' including Graham who still lives with his mother. In this essay I am going to discuss how contemporary society is portrayed in all three. There are many different issues in our society which are raised in talking heads, for example: religion, ageism and sexuality. Sexuality Sexuality is involved in all three monologues, but more in Graham's. All throughout 'A Chip in the Sugar' there is suspicion that Graham is gay. An example of this is in the clothes he wears. "Plastic Mac", "and flares are anathema even in Bradford", and "grey socks and sandals." Mr Turnbull suggests that these clothes are not suitable for a young man of today. Also at the very end of the monologue our suspicions appear to be correct when Graham's mother says, "I know the kind of magazines you read" I said, "Chess. You'll catch a cold" She said, "They never are chess. Chess with no clothes on. ...read more.


Graham's mother also appears anti-racist as she comments on the vicar's trainers. "He said, "They're training shoes." She said, "Training for what? Are you fully qualified?" It is clear that she doesn't fully understand the vicar as she actually thinks they are trainers he wears for 'vicar training.' I found it very hard to find anything to do with religion in Lesley's monologue. This could be because there is such a strong sexual tone to it. This may also be suggesting that religion is not an important part of Lesley's life. Sexual Orientation In all three monologues there is some kind of sexual orientated presence, but just like religion and sexuality are more present in the other monologues this is the main topic in 'Her Big Chance'. There are several hints that suggest Lesley has been sleeping with people, but it is never actually stated. A good example of this is with Terry. "His room's nicer than mine, his bathroom's got a hair-dryer." There is no actual implication that she slept with him but we can guess that she spent the night in his room. This also happens with Kenny the pet trainer. "I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't remember where I was. ...read more.


"There's a little Indian shop behind the Infirmary I've found." Here I think she is stereotyping newsagent owners of whet we typically expect them to be; just like we did with Susan. Just because it is owned by an Asian does not make it an "India" shop, another good example of our society today. Conclusion In conclusion I think that contemporary society is portrayed very well in 'Talking Heads' through the issues Alan Bennett includes. He shows that all of us have different views to the different monologues. I found it very hard to find anything to do with racism, religion or sexuality in Lesley's monologue. I think this is because Bennet is trying to get across that some people's lives include just one issue in society, whereas others can contain a combination of all different issues like Graham. I also think Bennet has helped us to learn from our reactions and opinions, as we have seen how selfish we are with opinions and need time to consider them more and change them. But do we choose what we want to dismiss and only have what we think in our heads or do we just say and think what the rest of society is thinking, and have we just been brainwashed with ideas? Deep down I think we all do not truly believe with the majority but are afraid to be singled out for having different opinions. ...read more.

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