A Cream Cracker Essay
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Despite these similarities and minor differences one of the major differences between the two plays is that ‘mum’ has an accident and as a result from that dies later. In George ‘mum’ has an accident and falls down the stairs. This moment is very symbolic. After the bird rein acts the sound of David’s mum falling down the stairs, David becomes greatly dismayed as he realises his mother was all alone, and left to die for three days. At this point Judy tries to shut out the bird, and in doing so the memory of his mother by covering the cage in a cloth.
This shows Judy as being very controlling over David which is reinforced when she says “don’t be silly, darling. You were wonderful with her” and that she simply couldn’t have his mother stay in a house with them, which shows that that was taken into consideration but denied by Judy.
In A Cream Cracker Under the Settee Doris actually chooses to die and the play leads up to this choice. When Doris chooses to die this moment is also very symbolic. “Are you all right? No. I’m all right.” When the policeman came along she wanted to ask for help but decided in the end that she would rather die and have her time than go to Stafford House. Stafford House is greatly regarded by Doris as a place where “You go daft there, there’s nowhere else for you to go but daft.” Throughout the play she has made the impression that she never wants to go to Stafford House and at the end we find out she would rather die.
As well as the similarities in the plot the two women are very similar. Both characters are old, widowed women who require the need of visitors. Both women are of working class. The dialect of the characters reinforces this, Doris’s accent is that of a Northerner and reflects Alan Bennett as he was a Northerner himself and uses it in his characters. The language is informal and colloquial: “I never saw no list” or “Them’s her leaves”, she also swears mildly “oh hell, the flaming buffet” when recounting the circumstances of her accident, but later uses the even less offensive “Oh stink”. She speaks very direct. At the end her thoughts wander more and more to the past making it seem more like a stream of consciousness. However, in George the dialogue is by David, Judy and George. Therefore, we can only assume that ‘mum’ spoke like George because of his characterisation. If this is the case then we can come to conclusions that ‘mum’ was of working class because of the dialect and dialogue of George. George’s voice is that of an old woman, plaintively complaining about loneliness, poverty and coldness. The language is very colloquial and informal, as in A Cream Cracker Under the Settee.
However, there are key differences in these women as in A Cream Cracker Under the Settee the focus of the play is on Doris as she reveals herself in monologue whereas in George the focus of the play seems to be more on the relationship between David and his mum. The other differences between the women are to do with the impression we get. We know more about Doris than we do about ‘Mum’ but from the information and description through David’s dialogue we understand Doris to be more independent and dominant than ‘Mum’. We understand that Doris is independent because from the beginning of the play she wants to the dusting herself and does not believe that her ‘home help’ are doing there job.
Her attitude towards Zulema shows us that she is quite stubborn and just because Zulema said she had dusted everywhere Doris immediately looks around to try and find a patch that she hasn’t dusted. At first we may question Zulema’s abilities but we soon realise that she wouldn’t have time to clean everywhere as she has other people’s houses to clean and cannot spend too much time on each. This explains why later on when Doris says, “Zulema won’t touch them. Says if I want leaves swept I’ve to contact the Parks Department.” This may seem like a small and not a time consuming job but if Zulema was to sweep Doris’ leaves then everybody who she visits might ask for their leaves swept and this would make Zulema behind schedule and might eventually lose her job.
In both plays there is an interesting use of shifting perspective for the audience. David and Judy present David’s mother and her situation in one way and then we are given a different perspective on the situation by George. We understand this because David and Judy are trying to fool themselves to believe that they did all they could to help his mother and that he had been “wonderful with her”. However, from what we understand from George is that she was all alone and when she was cold there was no one there to help her with the heating.
There is also an interesting shift of perspective in A Cream Cracker Under the Settee. Although, Doris isn’t trying to fool herself in the same way, we also get a sense of a “second story” or different version of events as she comments on other characters and her relationship with them for example when she talks about Wilfred. When Doris is talking about when she lost the baby she regards Wilfred as someone who seemed as if he didn’t really care and didn’t want a child in the first place.
However, we realise that he probably did want the baby and only suggested alternatives, “he started talking about getting a dog”, to try and make her happier. This could be why Doris’ obsession with cleaning may have started because she would have had something to occupy her time with. Her obsession may have started here because when the midwife called Doris’ stillborn son “dirty” Doris says, “He wasn’t dirty, little thing”; she disagrees and would have been traumatised by the ordeal of losing her baby.
One of the most interesting similarities between the plays is the way they use visual symbolism. In George there are a number of symbolic moments during the play. Two of the most symbolic moments are when Judy covers up the cage and when David rips the cover back off. When Judy covers up the cage it symbolises when David never visited his mum and it seemed as if he was covering her up and also because at the beginning they seemed to fool themselves into believing that they did all they could. Therefore, they were covering up the real reason why his mother died. When he rips the sheet off it suggests that he wants to try and make things right because David doesn’t want to cover George up as he did to his mum. It almost seems as if he wants his mum back so he can make it right to her.
In A Cream Cracker Under the Settee there are also many symbolic moments. One of which is when Doris cracks the photograph of her and Wilfred. “Cracked the photo. We’re cracked, Wilfred”. This is symbolic because it has fallen from the wall as a result of Doris’ endless campaign against dust, and the glass has cracked. This represents the destructive nature of Doris’ cleaning mania, the loss of Wilfred and particularly, with Doris’ choice to die at the end, the end of marriage both in Doris’ memory and on life. The fact that she holds on to the picture throughout the monologue may also suggest she is unwilling to let go of the past.
One of the major differences arises from the medium each play was written for. George was written to be performed on stage as a stage play. It is non-realistic and bizarre because if it was written for a television programme or something more realistic there would not be a mynah bird talking. Also, because on a stage of the living room the bird would be constantly in view so the audience could not forget about it or ignore it as David and Judy ignored his mother. A Cream Cracker Under the Settee was written for a television drama especially for the actress Thora Hird. The play is more naturalistic and uses convention just as much but it is more subtle and therefore, not as obvious as it is in George. The close-ups enable the viewers to recognise the facial expressions and feel what Doris feels.
Although both plays are hard-hitting and involve a lot of impact at the end I think that George has more impact on me because it is revealed more slowly and is seen through the eyes of a mynah bird which makes it more surreal and the moment when David is arguing with George sets the play up for a visual and clear ending of David’s mum lying at the bottom of the stairs on the floor for three days. I think that this play has more impact because it isn’t just about ‘mum’ and the isolation she was in but also the relationship she had with her son and the fact that he neglected her and her needs. Although I find George has more impact people may disagree because it is a shock when we realise that Doris has chosen to die. It is a very tense and shocking moment.