How Alan Bennett Explores His Themes Through The Presentation Of Characters In Talking Heads

How Alan Bennett Explores His Themes Through The Presentation Of Characters In Talking Heads

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Alan Bennett presents his characters in Talking Heads by writing the plays in the form of monologue. By employing this technique he has managed to create a rich and detailed World in which his stories unfold but, he only allows us to see it through the eyes of a single narrator. When reading a play that is presented in this manner it is possible to lose sight of the fact that you are only getting one person’s version of events and you may start to believe that you are having conversations reported to you verbatim. This is a clever mechanism because the narrators can often be unreliable and lead the reader to form opinions and draw conclusions that quite often turn out to be unfounded and false. The term “Talking heads is a synonym in television for boredom” (Bennett, 2007, p, 10) yet, these talking heads are certainly not boring, the settings may be drab and ordinary, the characters are not exciting or inspiring yet, the gossipy way in which the stories are told hooks the reader in. Fitting neatly into the genre of tragicomedy it is perhaps fitting that the ‘tragic’ comes before the ‘comedy’, certainly the dramatist infuses the plays with a rich dose of humour but the melancholy subject matter and the often quite sad and lonely characters always counter balances the laughs with a tinge of sadness.

The main themes that are explored in Talking Heads are isolation, identity, unhappiness and alienation from society.

Graham, who is the central character in ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ is presented as someone who is totally at odds with the World around him, it is hinted at early on in the monologue that he has mental health issues when he talks of “Joy Buckle, who teaches Flowers in Felt and Fabric at my day centre.” (Bennett, 1987, ...


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...ch she views in the same light as her Church obligations.

Graham, Miss Ruddock and Susan are all presented as human beings with intrinsic weaknesses that allow Alan Bennett to inflict unhappiness on them. He made Graham a ‘mommy’s boy’ without the mental wherewithal to make it on his own in the big scary World. Miss Ruddock is presented as someone who has the shadow of mental illness hanging over her and has let the rest of society move on without her. Susan is weak of will and lacks the inner strength to do as Ramesh and “take the profit and move on.” (Bennett, 1987, p, 84) Throughout the three monologues, Alan Bennett makes you laugh out loud at times, yet there is real tragedy here too. “However, what remains with the audience is his respect for the neglected characters, and how funnily and inventively he has used the monologue form.” (Turner, 1997, p, 66)


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