A Lady Of Letters Essay

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Alan Bennett’s ‘A Lady of letters’ is a dramatic monologue written for the BBC as a part of the ‘Talking Heads’ series. It focuses on an ordinary middle aged woman named Irene Ruddock. She expresses her views on society and the people she sees’s in her everyday life. There is only one point of view therefore, it is very biased. As the drama only features Irene, we also use our imagination to view other characters.

The monologue begins with Irene, sitting by her window, and passing mainly negative judgement on other people. Her living room is very impersonal, only including a table- which she writes from and a chair next to a window- which she spies the neighbours from. The director’s choice of clothes for Irene is bland and nondescript. The windows have netted curtains fixed to them, probably to keep the outside world out of the privacy of her home. The walls of the living room are bare; there are no photographs, so we can assume that she does not have any cherished pictures of close friends or family. There is a table with a traditional clothe draped over it; Irene probably does not want to get it dirty and prefers a more formal setting for her meals due to her prim nature. This is also the table she uses to write her letters, so she spends most of her time sitting by it. The plain setting reflects her dull life and the bare walls suggest depression as well as isolation from society.

Pathos is conveyed well in the opening because even so soon in the monologue we learn of Irene’s family situation. Irene has “One cousin in Canada”, so she is isolated from family relations. As Irene does not mention the name of the one cousin or specify any personal details about them we can assume that Irene does not know them well or have a relationship with them. We pity Irene as she is obviously alone and isolated from the company of family and we soon learn: friends. Irene attends the funeral of a woman, who at first we presumed, she knew. However, Irene admits that she is barely acquainted with the woman, “I actually didn’t know her that well”, It is hinted that maybe this woman was in a similar situation to Irene, with no nearby family “She had a niece in Australia” and with a lot of spare time on her hands, “We’d pass the time of day”, yet she and Irene never did speak closely with each other. We feel sorry for Irene as she must not have a lot to do in the day if she was present at the funeral of a stranger where she most likely does not know anybody and everyone would be too busy grieving to socialise with her. We receive an impression that Irene only went to escape the loneliness of her house, “It’s an outing”.  Irene writes letters constantly; it is one of the few ways she communicates with other people. She also has a special bond that comes with writing her letters as her pen, which she uses to write them, was given to her by her mother. “Mother bought it me... It’s been a real friend”; the pen is of obvious sentimental value as Irene as cherished it so much to even call it her ‘friend’. We then learn more about Irene’s situation and that is still in fact, grieving the loss of her mother, who was probably her best friend and closest companion. “When mother died I had fifty-three letters”; this suggests that other people only acknowledged and contacted Irene when her mother died, so she sought more comfort in letters. The reader pities Irene as now her mother is not in her life anymore she feels socially isolated and is still seeking assurance in letters.

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Alongside pathos, humour is effectively conveyed in the opening of, “A Lady of Letters”. Irene complains when she discovers dog dirt on her “little ramp”. There are juxtapose ideas in this section of the monologue as Irene regards the ramp as “my monument that ramp”; she obviously feels it is of importance and feels proud that she was the one responsible for its being there. However, in actual fact we know that the council may have only put it there to humour her so they would not receive an abundant amount of letters from her. Irene is dismayed because when ...

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