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

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

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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."

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