How does Friel use language to explore theme and characterisation in the 1st act of the play?

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How does Friel use language to explore theme and characterisation in the 1st act of the play?

‘Translations’ by Brian Friel is a play set in a simple town in Ireland. The English are doing an ordnance survey of the area and the local Gaelic place names are being recorded and rendered into English. The play examines the effect of this on a small group of people in the town. On the surface the story is simple, but the play is more in depth and explores the theme of central theme of new beginnings, language, communication and the shaping of reality. The themes and characters are immediately identifiable in the first act of the play. This essay will state how through the use of language Friel manages to explore the themes in act one.

As the play opens the stage direction communicate to the reader the setting of the play and the social status of the characters within. They are revealed to be a poverty stricken rural Irish community. The first few lines of the lay already identify and explore the theme.

‘Were doing very well. And we’re going to try it once more-just once more.’

The character of Sarah is unable to speak properly and instead uses gesture and grunts to communicate. The character of Manus at the beginning of the play is trying to convince Sarah to translate her silence into speech, thus identifying the theme of communication and translation.

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The character of Jimmy Jack is also established within the first few pages. He is reading in Greek. We learn that speaking and reading other languages come quite easy for him, this is evident in his prowess with the Greek language.

‘Ton d’emeibet epeita thea glaukopis Athene’

‘But the great grey eyed goddess Athene then replied to him’

His reading also serves as a commentary on the action as it relates to it. Jimmy Jack clearly isn’t paying any attention to the other characters as he is in his own world.

‘This is made evident by Manus.


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