Hugh’s character Essay
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The final story, which Hugh tells, incorporates the many criticisms of Hugh’s character. He covers up his own failings and inadequacies as a defence mechanism and reiterates this by saying to Owen, ‘to remember everything is a form of madness. ‘ This story is almost a turning point of Hugh’s character and for the audience’s interruption of his character. Hugh is no longer a two dimensional caricature but a real character with human attributes, hence why we can be critical and admirable towards him.
After all, Hugh is a self-educated man with a vast depth of knowledge of the Classics, speaking four languages, that we know of, Greek, Latin, Gaelic and English; nearly all of which he would have to have taught himself. He seems to be driven to share his knowledge. By teaching the Classics in his environment of rural poverty, himself a picture of poor ragged countryman, we must appreciate his drive and ability. Hugh also formed the ‘Hedge School’ well as far as we know.
He is attempting to educate the locals and one almost feels that he has taken the school from the hedge lines into the barn and still as an old man in his early sixties he has the ambition to move onward and upward to a new position at the new national school. He is clearly a figure in the local community who is looked up and respected by his peers and students alike. In addition, Yolland has a great deal of respect for him, calling him ” an astute man. ‘ Yolland almost has more respect for Hugh than Owen does because Owen continues to be critical of him and Yolland repeats, ‘But so astute,’ almost placing Hugh on a pedestal.
In addition, as an audience you have to respect his ability to cope with his situation, his wife has died and his sons are without a mother. It is easy to be critical of Hugh but you have to admire his ability to cope with the hard reality of the times he is living in even if that means trying to erase the past. After all he did live in an age of hand to mouth existence and he almost blocks out the reality of these hardships. His survival mechanism is a natural and human instinct. We cannot really blame him for wanting to live in an unrealistic world of Greek myth and Latin past.
Neither can you chastise his drinking. His lifestyle and the stress of his situation is what drives him to drink and you cannot really fault him for that. All of these small but simple gestures that Friel incorporates into Hugh’s character are what make us as an audience have admiration for him. Friel does not create a stereotypical character, but a ‘fully-rounded’ individual with human qualities, it is these qualities, which allow us as an audience to both admire and criticise his character.