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

Authors Avatar

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

In the Play ‘Translations’ the characters are separated into the two groups the English colonists, Captain Lancey and Lieutenant Yolland, and the Gaelic speaking Irish population, Manus, Sarah, Jimmy Jack, Maire, Doalty, Bridget, Hugh and Owen. Coming from different backgrounds mean the two groups the characters speech has been carefully written by Friel to display different cultural identity within their speech, such as different syntax, dialectical lexis and colloquial language.

        The two English sappers, Lancey and Yolland, speak in standard English both being formal and correct although Yolland also includes politeness, he apprises negative face needs Lancey dose not although the translation by Owen is changed to do so, in his idiolect where as Lancey seems not to do so, for instance when the two are Hugh by his son Owen, Lancey says,

Join now!

        “Good Evening”,

and then continues 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 ...

This is a preview of the whole essay

Here's what a star student thought of this essay


The Quality of Written Communication is generally poor. The candidate makes many grammatical errors with their syntax and often misprints even simple words. Hence I recommend thoroughly that the candidate re-read their work and submit the final copy once these errors in written expression have been ironed out.

The Level of Analysis is complicated to ascertain. Whilst in abundance - there is room for very little else in this essay, which contributes to it's clunky nature as it bombards the reader with analysis, it is not very deep nor insightful. A lot of what it written appears very obvious or it at the very most surface-level analysis. A lot of the characters have been taken as face value and pigeon-holed due to their social backgrounds, which is not strictly true. One of the reason 'Translations' is such a successful play and Friel such a successful playwright is that he scales things down to such an intimate level that it is often complex or impossible to determine where allegiances lie. Take George Yolland - he is a complex character and one that changes the most during the play as at the start he is one with the English, but later we find his involvement with the Empire's colonial intentions was accidental and he is smitten with the Maire and the Irish culture itself. So whilst it may be easy to assume that because one character is English they are 'bad' and if a character is Irish they are 'good', it is not always so simple to assign these qualities to these characters.

This essay gets off to a very promising start, with an excellent introduction that nicely outlines the aim of the essay and how Friel creates the separation between the two groups (Irish ad English) in terms of their speech. However, very soon into the essay there are errors in communication, leading to a form of information conveyance that compromises the clarity of what the candidate tries to say and ultimately, that compromises it's accuracy. Saying things like - "Lancey says, "Good Evening", and then continues to use Minimal responses to address the questions posed to him where as Lancey greets Hugh by saying, "How do you do. (sic)", are not clear or accurate as it is in fact Hugh who says "How do you do?". The analysis of this section is good and forms the template of much of the analysis to follow, so the candidate wins marks for always having a certain line or excerpt from the play handy in order to specifically analyse certain sections of speech, but the analysis is sloppy and poorly written, meaning it's impact and accuracy is often lost. To ensure this does not happen, candidates must pay close attention when referring to section that feature a lot of characters, so to make sure they are quoting correctly and are also citing the events of the play accurately.