According to Seamus Deane, Translations is a play about the tragedy

Powerful Essays
According to Seamus Deane, Translations is a play about the tragedy

of English Imperialism. How far would you agree with this statement

in relation to both Translations and Heart of Darkness?


Although the location, language and structure of Brian Friel's

Translations differs unmistakably from that of Joseph Conrad's Heart

of Darkness, the topic of colonisation remains central to both. While

the supposed sophistication of 'civilised' colonists is deconstructed

in Conrad's novella to reveal man's common 'darkness', Friel's play

deals with the ways in which the consciousness of an entire culture is

fractured by the transcription of one landscape (Gaelic, classical and

traditional) for another (Anglo-Saxon, progressive and Imperialistic).

Friel uses the apparently passive plotting of an Ordnance Survey map

to emphasise the loss of indigenous Irish tradition, social history

and heritage felt by the natives of County Donegal in Ireland. The

translation of the place-names automatically eliminates the secrets

buried within the original name; it distorts rather than restores the

ontological nature of the place-name. Friel uses Owen to expose the

Imperialist outlook on 'standardisation' during his battle with

Yolland over "Tobair Vree": He begins a long discourse on how Tobair

Vree came to acquire its name, identifying a well that once existed

nearby and has long since dried up, with "Vree" an erosion of the

Irish "Brian". He then asks Yolland: "do we keep piety with a man long

dead, long forgotten, his name eroded beyond recognition, whose

trivial little story nobody in the parish remembers?" Even as he

attempts to demonstrate the invalidity of 'Tobair Vree' as rightful

place-name through its seemingly...

... middle of paper ... the illusions of colonisation to merely

"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from

those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than

ourselves" by means of "forgotten and brutal instincts".

In summation, while Friel's Translations successfully reveals to the

audience that the enforced supremacy of an Imperialist agenda forever

alters, in this case literally, the landscape, Conrad too summarises

the disillusionment of Imperialism through the death of Kurtz. He

entered the jungle with the ideals and altruistic intention of

civilising the indigenous peoples, but his last words "The horror! The

horror!" express his realisation of the true, tragic nature of

Imperialism: "to tear treasure out of the bowels of the land", "with

no more moral purpose at the back it than there is in burglars

breaking into a safe."
Get Access