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East is East’ is a play about family life set in Salford at the start of the 1970’s. It focuses on the Khan family, specifically the children, who are coming to terms with their identity in a mixed race household dominated by an abusive father. In this assignment, I will explore how the conflicts and tension in the play are dramatically revealed through the use of humor. I will explore Act 1, Scene 1, and Act 2 Scenes 2, 4, and 5. Throughout these scenes I will look at the separate conflicts and tension concerning Abdul, George and Sajit.
It is necessary to observe George’s behavior closely as his actions directly impact upon his family, especially his children. His character shows the crossing over of the two cultures. Abdul’s character shows the clash of the two cultures and how they both try to overcome the other. He is the voice which speaks for the views of the children. Of all the children, Sajit’s character most strongly embodies the conflicts and struggles of being trapped between two extremely different cultures.
His trademark parka appears to symbolize his hidden inner feelings, since it is worn all throughout the play until his emotional breakthrough in Act 2, Scene 5 (further discussed later in this essay). The children of the family are aged between 12 – 23. Act 1, Scene 1, has an everyday “family life” theme to it, with the family in a typical atmosphere which they are nearly always in. This act is useful as it helps set the play and introduces the lifestyles of the characters:
“The contrast of cultures should come out in the set dressing, wall paper, oil cloth, Islamic prayer stickers, a coffee table with a picture of the Taj Mahal, a Lazy Susan which is always full of washing.
” – (Act 1, Scene 1) we are aware of the atmosphere and theme from this which helps set the play. We can see the contrast by having a picture of the Taj Mahal and then a Lazy Susan. A Lazy Susan is heavy slang which can help elucidate the situation. However, when the dialogue starts, we are taken of the description of the set and are faced with a humorous situation which involves George chasing Sajit because he has not been circumcised:
“GEORGE: I tell you stupy, why you no listen. Your son bloody got it… (He indicates his crotch. ) here tickle-tackle. ” – (Act 1, Scene 1) It is quite important that George is raising an issue that his son has not been circumcised. This reflects his views and is the first sign that he is a very religious Muslim. George uses Pidgin English which is very funny and shows that he has taken parts of the Pakistani dialect and merged it with English. Also George uses euphemisms instead of explicit terms which make it amusing like ‘stupy.
There is almost a sense of ‘Schadenfreude’ for the audience as George, who is usually violent in his control of the family, is struggling to speak fluently. This is funny as it makes it seem as if he is hanging somewhere in between the two cultures. Another stage direction shows George’s relationship with his wife: “George grins slightly, these arguments happen all the time, and this one has reached its point. ” – (Act 1, Scene 1) In this quotation, we can see the relationship George has with his wife and that he is a playful character.
This is another image of George that the audience gets and they assume that this is George’s normal behaviour. In this scene there are not any visible conflicts between the characters. This scene does not appear to be particularly loaded, but then again it is only the beginning of the play. This changes as we begin to slowly find out. In Act 2, Scene 2, the cross-cultural conflicts created by the tension slowly built throughout the play up to this point is finally resolved. Sajit is opening up to his older brother, Abdul, and Abdul is seeing Sajit in a new light.
Sajit to him was always the dotty child who never took off his coat. The symbolism of Sajit’s coat is like his protection and sanctuary to get away from all of the harsh treatment and bad feelings that he receives. In Act 2, Scene 5, more is revealed about the symbolism of Sajit’s coat. After their talk Abdul wishes he had a parka to get away from all the conflicts, living up to his father’s expectations and his complicated life: “I wish I had a parka. ” – (Act 2, Scene 2) This quotation has importance as it shows that Abdul has accepted Sajit and his ways.
It also shows that he would like to seek refuge just like Sajit and shows that he also is vulnerable like his brother. This is the first time that Abdul has shown any sort of understanding towards Sajit’s feelings. Another family conflict is shown when Abdul tries to explain to Tariq, his younger and rebellious brother, why he has never defied his father and let his father overpower him: “I want him to treat me like a proper son, I want him to trust me. I don’t want him to feel as if I’m some investment for his future. ” – (Act 2, Scene 2) Abdul is trying to explain to Tariq why he listens to his father and tries to respect him.
This shows that Abdul is very reasonable and can see both points of views, from his and his siblings and his view and from his fathers. The world conflict in this scene forms a backdrop in the play. George feels strongly about Pakistan and the war as he has family near the borderline. Ella (his wife) on the other hand, does not really care about the war and is more concerned about life back home and her family: ‘They only come around here when they want money, or when money wants sending to Pakistan, to buy more bleeding land that we’re not gonna live on. And do you think any of my kids are gonna get a look in, if owt happened to you?
‘ – (Act 2, Scene 2) Ella is finally unleashing her feelings which she has bottled up for the course of her marriage with George. George is dumbfounded as he knows that it is truth, then when Ella says: “I’m not gonna stand by and let you crush them one by one because of your pig bloody ignorance. ” – (Act 2, Scene 2) George upon hearing Ella apparently call him “pig” becomes angry. He is a volatile character and Ella’s words trigger off his already heated temperament (Pork is forbidden in Islam, so he feels gravely insulted): “George grabs Ella violently by her hair and pulls her to the ground.
We see Sajit crying in the yard. ” – (Act 2, Scene 2) The scene has come to a dramatic conclusion which has a lot of tension within it, from both the domestic violence and Abdul and Tariq’s encounter. A lot of tension has developed in this scene and is building up to the climax. In Act 2, Scene 4 we see Abdul in another light. We see him confessing and repenting his actions from earlier.
The atmosphere becomes very tense as Abdul delivers a very powerful speech which releases a lot of tension: “I just sat there and watched them, and I didn’t belong, I was crying, crying so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. ” – (Act 2, Scene 4) After this strong comment, the stage directions amplify the atmosphere: “Pause. We can just hear the music playing in the background. ” – (Act 2, Scene 4)
This is a dramatic part of the scene as Abdul has vented his feelings about his behavior all in one powerful release. The relevance of the music is important as it is background music which can clearly be heard as both Abdul and Tariq are silent, showing that it is a reminder of their culture and the rising tensions. This scene is important as it helps us understand the character of Abdul.
We can see that he can understand the young and childish views of his youngest brother, and the serious views of Tariq. Throughout the play, tension and humor have entwined which has built up to the climax of the play in the final scene. In Act 2, Scene 5, the tension of the play has risen to the climax and everyone is rushing around for the arrival of the guests. There is tension in the air as they are waiting for the arrival of Mr. Shah (the father of Abdul and Tariq’s brides to-be): “Ella is plaiting Meenah’s hair. Sajit sits oblivious to all the confusion around him, reading a comic. ”
– (Act 2, Scene 5) We can see that there is tension as everyone is scurrying about doing their own thing. Ella seems to be in control of the situation and is ordering everyone about: “ELLA: Keep it bloody still then. Sajit – go upstairs and ask your Dad to give you the nit comb. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) “ELLA: Hang on, I haven’t got two pairs of hands. Abdul! Fix Tariq’s tie. (Pause. ) Where’s Saleem? ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) “ELLA: Sajit go upstairs and ask your dad to get me jeweler out of the safe. (As Sajit goes. ) And take that bleeding parka off! Abdul, get the posh cups out of the cabinet in the kitchen. ”
– (Act 2, Scene 5) In all of these quotations, we see Ella sending the children off around the whole house to prepare before Mr. Shah arrives. Upon the arrival of the guest the tone changes and the family adopt a posh approach, which is an immediate contrast with their usual eccentric behavior: “Mr. Shah enters greeted by Ella. Ella leads him into the parlor, followed by the others, Sajit bringing up the rear trying to see. Ella has now got her slightly posh voice on. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Then Mr. Shah is introduced. We can tell that he holds very high standards as everyone greets him as he is introduced.
Ella who is normally very informal has now become very posh as she is aware of the respect that Mr. Shah deserves. We can see that Ella does not seem to know what to say and when to say it: “Oh they’re quite heftya¦the frames I mean! Look George, aren’t they lovely? ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) In this quotation we can see that Ella has spoken aloud her true opinion about the girls’ pictures, but hastily manages to recover. This is quite an obvious sign that Ella is not used to meeting those who are from the Pakistani background and is embedded in the English culture.
There is tension in the air because; if one character makes a mistake then there will be serious consequences like Mr. Shah refusing to allow his daughters to marry into the family: “Enter Meenah with the tea, she sees the photos, she can barely control her laughter, this could be dangerous. She scuttles out of the room quick. ” “MEENAH: I’ll just go and get the biscuits. (She almost snorts this. )” – (Act 2, Scene 5) The children also notice that the pictures are unsightly and can hardly control their laughter, just like their mother.
This is funny but serious as we can understand the comedy of the circumstances but the seriousness of the situation. In this scene there are cross-cuts between the two actions at the same time. There is the formal type atmosphere in the parlor and the informal light hearted tone in the living room where the children are gathered. This is quite good as tension is increased as the two actions happen. When one scene occurs, the other pauses thus building tension between the two. There is comedy present as the children are joking about with Saleem’s model and on the other hand we have such a serious atmosphere:
“Ella goes to grab the model, but Saleem gets there first. She begins to chase him round the room. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) As the model is of something so explicit, it is entertaining to see the situation change to such an amusing one. Then it says: “We are aware of the commotion outside the parlor door. ” ‘SALEEM: (from outside). Mam let go, you’re pulling all the hair out! ‘ – (Act 2, Scene 5) These quotations show the situation from the other room and we can imagine what the guest and the family are thinking. The family is all seated and then suddenly: “Saleem falls through the door clutching the model.
He lands in front of Mr. Shah. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) The sudden entrance of Saleem has surprised the guest, and George too has finally lost patience with his own family. Even though something so embarrassing and detrimental has happened Ella uses humor which induces the tension building to the climax: “ELLA: I’m very sorry Mr. Shah, it was an accident, the hair came off in me hands. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Mr. Shah has been a patient guest for the family, but he too finally loses it. He cannot believe he was about to wed his daughters into this crazy family: “This is an insult to me, and to my family!
How can you allow your son to behave like this! I will never let my daughters marry into this jungly family of half-breeds! ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) This too is an insult to Ella who as explained before loves her own children. She cannot let this pass her so easily: “Well your daughters aren’t good enough for my sons or your house. And if I hear you say another word about my family, I’ll put that fanny over your bastard head. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Once again Ella has defended her family and used humor to add more tension to the atmosphere. This speech is tough as Ella overrules George to shout at Mr.
Shah. Mr. Shah exits feeling personally insulted, and then George loses it: “You baster bitch, you insulting guest, bring bloody shame on family. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) He is more concerned about what others think of his family and is annoyed that Ella has insulted not just an ordinary guest, but a Pakistani respectable man. George is too irrational and cannot see any other side to it so: “George grabs Ella, and pushes her to the floor, he starts to hit her. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Now George is hitting Ella for the second time and the children, all except Sajit, have not seen this brutal attack before.
They are stunned: “Saleem and Tariq run over to try and stop him, Manner grabs Ella and tries to pull her away. Sajit takes off his coat, runs over, and starts to hit George with it. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Abdul has taken control of the situation and is grabbing his father and holding him against the wall. He is acting on behalf of all of the children: “ABDUL: Dad! (He grabs George and pushes him against the wall. ) Get off her stop it. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Abdul has just done a very manly action by sizing up to his father and then pushing him away.
His conflicts have arisen as he has previously had to atone and be a religious Muslim and then had to face this situation. Sajit has been silent throughout the previous action but suddenly has whipped off his parka and started whacking his dad with it. This is such a major change as the metaphor of his parka has changed i. e. – the parka represented bottled up feelings and now it is being released. The action of reliving the scene of his father attacking his mother must have removed his fears. The following quotation has a strong message in it: “Sajit runs off to the shed crying. Pause. There’s just the sound of Ella crying.
The others help her into a chair. ” “George starts to cry. ” “GEORGE: I only try to help you son, I no want to bloody hurt you, I love my family. I have to bloody stick up for family when people calling. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) The pause in the stage directions is used to build suspense and create more tension. Then when George begins to cry we realize that he is not all bad. The previous examples of George that we have seen are those which show him in either a humorous or bad light, not in a sympathetic light. The fact that he is crying shows that he too is human and feels sad about his actions.
His speech states that he cares for his family, and has their best interests at heart. This is quite moving and is almost like a healing to all of the violence. It proves that he does care for his family after all. Then George leaves and Abdul goes to speak to Sajit, who has retired to the coal shed. Sajit too has released his anger and even tells Abdul it: “I was only hitting him ’cause he hit me mam. He always does it. He said he was gonna burn the house down. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Sajit has said something which echoes his inner feelings all along. He thought that his dad was going to burn his house down.
Sajit has foolishly taken George’s previous threat from when he previously beat up Ella to heart. This shows that he may be dotty, but he does care. Once again, he opens up to Abdul: “I didn’t half give him a belt didn’t I? ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) Then Abdul asks if Sajit wants to keep his coat, but surprisingly Sajit doesn’t. In the following quotation, we can see Sajit giving all his fears up and relieving all his stress. “Sajit takes the coat, goes over to the bin, lifts up the lid, takes one last look at his coat, and throws it in. ” – (Act 2, Scene 5).
The fact that Sajit has taken a final look at the coat may mean that he is reflecting on all of the times that his coat was a haven for him away from all of the troubles that plagued him. After such a moving ending and tension humor is once again introduced, as Sajit says: “Can I have another look at our Saleem’s model? ” – (Act 2, Scene 5) This shows the final example where humor is used to reveal tensions and conflicts. The resolution of the play is one that the audience may not have expected and is quite fulfilling as it successfully concludes the conflicts between the characters.
From my assignment, I can conclude that conflicts and tension are dramatically revealed through the use of humor. In many scenes, we can see this like Act 1, Scene1 and Act 2, Scene 5. The purpose of this play is portraying life as an Anglo-Pakistani in the 1970’s. It highlights the difficulties and good times of being Asian. The reason that Ayub-Khan-Din wrote the play was because the play was a way to show others how his life was for a typical Pakistani family growing up, in his circumstances. The playwright has based the play around his life which made it more real and understandable.
This play is very autobiographical as it shows certain aspects of his life and shows the struggles for Anglo-Pakistani families. The play seems humorous, and since I didn’t really know how bad problems can really be in an English-Pakistani family living in England, I thought they had exaggerated a lot. But later finding out that the play is autobiographical; it made me understand the theme a bit better. It made me look at the play very differently, and it was easier to value the atmosphere as it was based upon a true lifestyle.
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