Discuss how Billy's character is presented. Does it develop during the course of the play?

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Rebecca Brown 10BRG

Discuss how Billy’s character is presented. Does it develop during the course of the play?

The play ‘Billy Liar’ was written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall in 1960. It was set in the late fifties/early sixties, which was a revolutionary era.

During this time many people felt discontented and restrained, leading to their questioning of the class system and the authority of the day. Such feelings were reflected by playwrights portraying naturalistic interpretations that linked to social realism (that is, exposing daily life for what it truly was). Perhaps the strongest indication of this was the increased use of swearing and regional accents, replacing the former tightly clipped British accents. These writers were interested in simply promoting life as it really was.

During the play, the audience is presented with three different generations. The past represented by Florence, the Grandma; the present represented by Alice and Geoffrey, the parents of Billy; finally, there are many potential future representatives in this play including Arthur and Barbara.  However, the main character is Billy.

During the play it becomes apparent to the audience that Billy is in a state of emotional chaos; he is unaware of who he is and what he wants to become. As the play unfolds this is emphasised by Billy becoming less able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

The impression that the audience gets of Billy before he enters from his family, is that he is extremely idle and doesn’t take kindly to orders.

        ‘I’ve shouted him three times…’ (Act 1: 65)

However, his Grandmother believes that Alice and Geoffrey, Billy’s parents, are entirely responsible for his disobedience.

        ‘They let him carry on just as he likes...’ (Act 1: 57)

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However, when Billy first arrives on stage some aspects agree with his family comments, whereas some don’t.

His idleness is confirmed with how he is dressed as he enters.

        ‘(He is wearing an old raincoat over his pyjamas. He is smoking a cigarette)’ (Act 1: 92)

This shows that Billy doesn’t take any pride in his appearance and cannot be bothered either. On the other hand, his language challenges that he is idle because he addresses his father and grandmother formally.

        ‘Good morning, father.’ (Act 1: 103) and ‘Your servant, ma’am’ (Act 1: 110).

However, this is also ...

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