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AS and A Level: Brian Friel

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Key words in English literature

  1. 1 Language – analysing language may involve exploring associations/connotations of words, semantic fields or image patterns, figurative language (similes, metaphors, symbols, personification, hyperbole etc.)
  2. 2 Form – analysing form may involve exploring genre and dramatic conventions (actions, use of stage space, dramatic techniques etc.)
  3. 3 Structure – analysing structure may involve exploring patterns and repetitions throughout the play, prolepsis (foreshadowing) and analepsis (flashback/echoes), the order in which events occur, characters speak, etc.
  4. 4 Audience – analysing audience response may involve exploring audience positioning, the use of dramatic moments (on and offstage), expectations, tensions, comedy, suspense, etc.
  5. 5 Pace and Timing – analysing pace and timing may involve exploring the rhythm created by dialogue (e.g. stichomythia), the use of pausing and silence, the balance between action and dialogue, the importance of stage direction.

Five things that A/A* students always do in their English literature essays

  1. 1 High quality answers use contextual information (e.g. Irish history) only in terms of its significance to the question. i.e. ‘bolt on’ information is best avoided.
  2. 2 Strong answers constantly embed quotations from the text, which act to 1) support arguments and 2) provide a platform for more detailed analysis.
  3. 3 Effective responses take into account the dramatic conventions being adopted by Friel (e.g. use of offstage space, dramatic irony, etc.)
  4. 4 Clear topic sentences are needed at the beginning of each paragraph. These should both address the title and delineate what the paragraph is going to cover.
  5. 5 • Strong answers avoid repetition and generalisation

How to plan your essays

  1. 1 Think of your essay as a skeleton framework (structure and argument), requiring flesh (textual detail and analysis) and clothes (terminology/context/relevant information)
  2. 2 Brainstorm your ideas around the wording of the title e.g. considering the significance of a theme requires you to develop arguments on not only its construction but its function and purpose within the text as a whole.
  3. 3 Some words in the title may be developed in terms of their different meanings e.g. identity = naming, individual identity, collective and communal identity, etc.
  4. 4 Paragraphs should be organised logically, with clear links made between them to encourage the sense of a fluent argument (e.g. linking words = conversely, however, similarly, etc.)
  5. 5 Questions which focus on passages or areas of the text for closer analysis demand that you balance your essay between detailed observation and cross referenced overview. Avoid going through passages chronologically.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 5
  • Peer Reviewed essays 3
  1. Marked by a teacher

    Classics in Friel's Translations

    5 star(s)

    But I would go bull straight for Athene'. His relationship with the mythological character is real to him, and thus the problems he faces are as realistic as the problems faced by the people around him. As Jimmy contemplates his impending marriage to Athene at the end of the play he brings up the word 'exogamein' meaning 'to marry outside the tribe' and asks 'Is Athene sufficiently mortal or am I sufficiently godlike for the marriage to be acceptable to her people and to my people?'. This idea becomes especially significant when parallels drawn between this relationship and the relationship between Maire and Yolland.

    • Word count: 1445
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Naming and Power in Friel's Translations

    4 star(s)

    Use of the prefix 'de' also gives Owens remark a more negative feel, making the reader wonder if what they are doing is perhaps a bad, destructive thing rather than the constructive process it was intended to be; a theme which is looked at many times during other parts of the play and is best exemplified by Yolland's remark later in the play: 'something is being eroded' The exploration of the ideas of creation in conjunction with naming are mentioned only twice in this passage but is very important to the play as a whole.

    • Word count: 1646
  3. Marked by a teacher

    By close examination of Act 1, discuss the ways in which Friel explores the importance of the link between language and identity.

    3 star(s)

    Her actions, and therefore her language instantly portray her to the audience as a seemingly loving and generous person, therefore linking these strong character traits together with great importance. Furthermore, the important link between language and identity that Friel accentuates in Translations is shown very clearly within the small colloquialisms and dialect within the small Gaelic community. Manus describes himself and his father to have been "footering" about, meaning that they have been joking and larking around. Such slang is exclusive to the community, and no matter how much one were to study and learn Gaelic it would be very hard to pick up this "code" that belongs solely to the community of Baile Beag.

    • Word count: 1153
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Consider the themes of language and naming in Act 1, and explore their relationship to culture and identity.

    3 star(s)

    The plays name is 'Translations', a word to which we tend to associate a foreign language with. The whole play in itself is a translation from Gaelic to English, so in this way is ironic as the situation that Brian Friel is dealing with in his play is that British troops, apparently unwelcome by most of Ireland, are translating Irish place names into English place names. Therefore, immediately at the beginning of the play, we can see that by naming it 'Translations', Friel has conveyed the theme and feelings of the Irish people, that is to say that they feel that English is a foreign language to them.

    • Word count: 1123
  5. Peer reviewed

    What Issues Of Communication Are Raised In The Play 'Translations'?

    5 star(s)

    The issue of communication in particular takes a significant central point in the play 'Translations'. The problems of translations between the languages are a metaphor for the problems of communication between England and Ireland and its cultural barriers. Communication at first sight seems to be straight forward, in the opening scene, despite being dumb; Sarah can explain the whereabouts of the missing Hugh by a series of mimes. However Manus says to her, "Soon you'll be telling me all those secrets that have been in that head of yours all these years" but for this, language is required and when language intervenes, then the difficulties arise.

    • Word count: 1131
  6. Peer reviewed

    Explore the range of linguistic and stylistic effects used to bring out the central themes and issues of Brian Friel's play "Translations"

    4 star(s)

    Communities such as Baile Beag lose their cultural and political identities, and the original meaning is distorted. Friel used the theme of naming to highlight this loss of identity within the Irish community. The importance of names is also stressed in the repetition of place names: "Owen: Bun na hAbhann Yolland: Again Owen: Bun na hAbhann Yolland: Bun na hAbhann" Friel uses mapping, both literally and metaphorically, in order to convey his ideas. The actual mapping for the Ordnance Survey is maintained by Owen's constant gesture of referring to the map which he and Yolland are working from.

    • Word count: 1013
  7. Peer reviewed

    How Does Brian Friel convey a sense of cultural identity through the way his characters speak?

    3 star(s)

    to use Minimal responses to address the questions posed to him where as Lancey greets Hugh by saying, "How do you do." which carries more polite connotations with it, although his responses are short to the questions he is asked are short they are not minimal responses, like Lanceys, and show he is more willing to engage in phatic communication. Lancey also conveys an authoritive attitude lacking personal tone, incorporating a definite modality, using military tones and speaking in complex sentences, "If by then the Lieutenant Hasn't been found, we will proceed until a complete clearance is made of this entire section".

    • Word count: 778

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Taking as your starting point pg.76 "Maire enters" to pg.78 "It didn't last long, did it?" discuss the play's impact as a 'doomed love story.'

    "If Yolland was to isolate himself away from the safety of his soldiers we know he would be at great risk from the darker elements of the community. This apparent naivety makes the audience fear for him, he seems to romanticise the whole situation turning Baile Beag into a Utopia, yet we know of the Donnelly Twins existence and we feel we know their intentions. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Yolland when we know that the Donnelly Twins are 'out and about.' Although we are never told in any detail we are drawn to the conclusion that the Donnelly Twins have brought an end to Yolland's young life. Jimmy encapsulates this "doomed love story" in his final lines, "Do you know the Greek word endogamein? It means to marry within the tribe. And the word exogamein means to marry outside the tribe. And you don't cross those borders casually- both sides get very angry. It is Maire and Yolland's willingness to attempt to cross these borders and to learn from one another, which has the deepest impact on the audience."

  • “Drama Shows Us That Those Who Control Language Dictate the Events of the Play” Compare Your Texts In the Light of This Opinion.

    "To conclude, it is fair to argue that "those who control language dictate the events of the play" when looking at both Hugh and Prospero in The Tempest and Translations, until the resolutions of each play. Hugh faces unemployment when he is told he will have no future as headmaster. His attempts to relate how the Romans destroyed Catharge also end in disaster, as he cannot remember the lines. In The Tempest, Shakespeare takes the common route of a tragicomedy by closing on a happy note. There is freedom for the released Ariel and a chance for Caliban to control his island once more."

  • A surprising amount of Translations depends on suppression, both political and personal, and the unspoken.(TM) To what extent are suppression and the unspoken important in the text?

    "In conclusion, it is apparent that the theme of suppression and remaining unspoken runs through the length of the play. This technique reveals the difficulties and boundaries which existed between the Irish and the English. The choice of using such theme could also be noted as being a deliberate act by Friel in order to create further suspense within the play. As the play is written about a historical event which had already taken place, the audience would be aware of the outcome. This then makes the audience character bond far closer as the audience would prefer a less demanding approach of control from the English and a greater sense of support from the Irish in maintaining and pursuing their culture. Caner Cifci English Literature"

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