In what ways does Brian Friel establish the theme of language and communication in Act I of 'Translations'.

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In what ways does Brian Friel establish the theme of language and

communication in Act I of ‘Translations’

The play ‘Translations’ is written by Brian Friel. It is set in 1833 in a small town called Baile Beag in Donegal, Ireland. The main concept of the play is based on the politics between Ireland and England. The British colonists have sent over their soldiers to create an ordnance survey map of Ireland and also introduce a national system of state schools. The play also examines the effects of linguistic, cultural and political changes on the lives and feeling of these townspeople. The actual language of the play is Gaelic (an Irish language) but it is written and performed in English, to help overcome the language barrier. In ‘Translations’ Brian Friel establishes the themes of language and communication and attempts to get audiences to understand how such themes are significantly related to the themes of power and identity. Brian Friel establishes his themes through the use of various literary devices in Act I of the play, such as, the setting, characterisation, dialogue and symbolism. Another important device is the title; the title itself highlights the theme of language and communication.        

Act I of the play begins by describing and introducing the setting of the play using the stage directions. It also introduces some of the key characters. The author makes it known to audiences the location where the play begins and the financial positions of the characters involved. The act opens up in a hedge-school in a rural Gaelic speaking area. The school is located in a barn so we know that the community is made up of farmers, and commonly farmers are known often to be in financial difficulty. The context of the play also hints at how poorly developed and behind in the industrialisation of the western world Ireland is, later in the act we learn that this is indeed the reason for poverty and hardship for this community. We also learn that there are British soldiers who have come over to do carry out an ordnance survey, and this will cause problems between those in the Irish community who are strongly against English colonisation.

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Brian Friel’s character each play significantly important roles in the themes discusses in the play, they each have their own particular view on the British taking over Ireland, and many characters have conflicting views. The every first character, Manus, is described as ‘shabby’, we also learn that ‘he is lame’ and that he teaches as his father’s ‘unpaid assistant’ (Act I, stage directions). Manus holds the strong views of the Irish nationalist, who is against England’s invasion of Ireland and the changes they have come to make. The actions of Doalty when he steals the surveyor’s pole are also ...

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