Examine The Ways In Which Lang

Satisfactory Essays
Examine the ways in which language and identity are treated in ‘Translations’
‘Translations’ is set in 1833, in County Donegal, which was soon after the time when Britain had claimed Ireland as part of its empire. The British and the Irish therefore had differing languages, so the British decided to go through the process of naming or renaming Ireland’s geographical features. In ‘Translations’ language and identity are used more as a plot device and plot feature rather than as part of stylistic technique, which is their most common role.
When the play was first performed by Friel’s own theatre company it was performed in the Irish language, and at the start of the play, all the characters speak Irish as their first language, the English language comes into the script a lot later, which reflects the course of events in Ireland over the past two centuries. All these characters have been brought up speaking the language and it is a fundamental part of their life, culture and identity.
English is the second main language in the play. It represents the future to Maire and Owen, and ‘a mistake’ to Hugh and Manus. The two English speakers come as part of the same assignment, to make a map of the country and to ‘see that the place names are ... correct.’, but they have greatly differing attitudes towards Ireland and its identity. Captain Lancey sees the Irish as inferior to the English, which is evident when he is willing to evict a whole village of them, over the disappearance and probable death of one Englishman. Yolland however falls in love with Ireland, its language and culture and he feels that ‘something is being eroded’ by his task of renaming the geographical features of Ireland. Yolland is not the stereotypical English male of the time, because he ‘missed the boat’ to India and that stereotypical way of life, which would be following his father’s wishes.
The other two languages used in the play are Greek and Latin, which are spoken only by Hugh and Jimmy. These two classical languages create an identity of intellectualism in their users and it is significant that it is the Irish rather than the English characters who can speak them contradicting Lancey’s view of them being inferior.
Friel shows us the use of language in several different forms. The first scene where Manus is teaching Sarah to speak shows us that language is used to create communication.
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