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.
‘Nobody’s listening, nobody hears you.’
He treats the Greek myths as real and even uses them to give agricultural advice.
‘And with cui putre-with crumbly soil-is in the main best for corn. There you are’
‘Translations’ is reminiscent in style to that of a Greek tragedy. Therefore the mention of Greek legends seems self-referential. It also adds a sense of foreshadowing.
The reader gets the feel of the close-knit community by the repeated references to other members of the community who do not appear in the play. Such as the Donnelly twins, Nellie Rudah’s baby and the mention of pubs Anna na mBreag’s, Con Connie Tim’s and Gracie’s.
The mention of the christening of Nellie Rudah’s baby echoes the theme of new beginnings. The idea of a new baby being given a name also is about identity. The play is about both these things. Through the use of language Friel is already identifying themes and using the events in a town to exemplify them.
The relationship between Manus and Maire is also established and their characters are explored. They are an example of a lack of communication.
‘Maire The passage money came last Friday
Manus You never told me that.’
They speak to each other using mainly simple sentences and nether expresses their real feelings. Already their relationship is shown to one that is not extremely effective.
Hugh’s character is explored through Doalty’s imitation of him. It provides the reader with an insight to how the other characters think he is before we are introduced to him. He is instantly recognisable when he enters. Hugh’s character is revealed in the way he speaks to his students.
‘Acquiesced-Maire? Too slow Bridget?’
He likes to interrogate his students. It exemplifies his authoritarian role as he is testing his students and through that helping them to learn. It also is a way of showing his vast knowledge of language and his fondness of showing off as shown by the way he greets his class.
‘Vesperal salutations to you all’.
The character of Owen is evident from his entrance the characters are pleased he his there and all greet him fondly. He is the prodigal son. He also serves as the role of translator, which is very important to the play. He allows communication between the two groups in the play.
‘My job is to translate the quaint archaic tongue you people persist in speaking into the Kings good English.’
Owen is disparaging of the Gaelic language.
When Owen introduces the group to Yolland and Lancey, the English. Rather than translating what Lancey says he omits details and changes others so that everything has a more positive spin.
‘Lancey So that the entire basis of land evaluation can be reassessed for the purposes of more equitable taxation
Owen This new map will take the place of the estate agents map so that from now on you will know exactly what is yours by law’
Although Owens role is to allow communication, he in fact does the opposite so that neither side gets to hear what the other has to say. This in fact is the perfect example of an exploration of the theme.
Hugh’s view on English allows a certain amount of irony to the play. He believes that English is a simple language and is used merely for trade. He feels that Gaelic and Latin are better suited for culture and expression.
‘English, I suggested, couldn’t really express us.’
This ironic because the play itself is in English. Hugh states that Gaelic and Latin go together when the English language is devised from Latin. Hugh is not as knowledgeable as first seems. Even though he is scornful of the English. Hugh is planning ton teach in an English school. It explores the pragmatic side of his character. Owen like his father is also [pragmatic and believes that English has to be understood. That communication comes with understanding, which can only lead to progress this, is a major theme in this play.
Friel uses the language of the characters the way in which they speak. How they communicate and what they in fact say to explore themes and characterisation in the play. He gets the point across that the characters are speaking different languages although in reality they are all speaking the same one. This effectively provides the reader an insight into the problems with communication and what can happen when people do not communicate efficiently. This also serves to explore the characters and the themes. Already in act one all of this is established and exploration has already begun.