Individual and the community Essay
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There tends to be quite a large use of extended metaphors within the play referring to the individual and the community frequently. Translations is said by many to be ‘an intelligent and enlightening metaphor for the situation in Northern Ireland’. This statement can be backed up and the reader can see many representations throughout the play. The most obvious example is that of the situation between Maire and Yolland on page 62. A significant part of this scene is when Maire says ‘ that leap across the ditch nearly killed me’, as she is really symbolising the change the Irish people must undergo.
Therefore, individuals are used to represent different views and cultures, as well as having their own. Characters are used mainly as a metaphor for Irelands position with the English. This is evidence of a particularly good playwright. Friel uses Sarah as a symbol to represent Baile Beag’s loss of language as the English arrive to anglicise the Irish counties. We know from historical references that the English did anglicise much of Ireland, resulting in a loss of language, as shown with Sarah’s particularly similar situation.
As the play progresses in the beginning, Sarah’s speech begins to improve, but when the English come, Sarah’s speech is lost again, which symbolises the English power over Ireland and how they are able to make change to the language with Sarah individually and the whole of Ireland nationally. Other scenes such as in act two scene one, we see stage directions create a bond between brothers and indicate a distance between cultures; as Manus ‘moves beside OWEN’, we begin to realise the general stance of the British and the Irish divide
The mythology Jimmy Jack studies once again acts as a metaphor for the situation Baile Beag have created for themselves – the community are locked in time as the play states ‘it can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour that no longer matches the landscape of fact’. Words in the beginning paragraph such as ‘disused’ and ‘remains’ imply that this is a hedge school of a traditional heritage, which represents Ireland and its Irish culture at the present time.
There are also many issues based around identity within the play, and this is reflected with peoples actions and the way that they change from the beginning of the play to the end. Many characters manage to find themselves and realise what their direction in life is. ‘Translations’ seems to revolve around the subject of names – the most obvious being the Name Book and the individual identity. As each character enters a scene, Friel gives a detailed description of them, providing the reader with an immediate image. The character then progresses and adopts their own personality and identity.
In the case of Sarah, she is described as being ‘waiflike’ and ‘unintelligible’. As the play progresses, Sarah’s identity changes as she learns to speak. Later, Friel uses Sarah’s identity to represent the more timid people of Ireland as she becomes incoherent. Another example is the character of Maire. Maire is described as a ‘strong-minded and strong-bodied woman’ at the start of the play, but, by the end, seems to have become distant as if she’d been ‘washed away’ by her contact with the English, and, more importantly, with Yolland.
Therefore, individual identity can alter when situations change. Friel created Jimmy Jack as an eccentric, an infant ‘prodigy’. He acts as a symbol of an attachment to the past, and cannot differentiate between fantasy and reality. This takes both a political and social stand towards Baile Beag. Is it so bad that Jimmy Jack has to resort to living in a fantasy world? This relates to the flaws within Baile Beag, which, in turn, make up most of the community.
Those who live there are trapped in a ‘linguistic contour’, speaking dead languages, whilst those who are of a greater education such as Hugh, Jimmy Jack and Owen have many more faults than those less educated; Hugh has a severe drinking problem, Jimmy Jack fixed in his fantasy world and Owens rejection from his father as a translator. Jimmy Jacks poor dress sense and almost tramp like appearance acts as a metaphor for Ireland itself, proving although they live on an old island, with an old language and culture, there are still things to be cherished, that are rich and should be preserved.
This is a rich community full well of educated people such as Hugh and Jimmy Jack, which is being understated. Throughout the play, many individuals are mentioned who are not characters in the play. The first is Daniel O’Connell who is referred to by Maire on page 24, and who Hugh calls ‘that little Kerry politician’. Daniel O’Connell was, in fact, known as ‘the liberator’ who fought for political rights for Irish Roman Catholics. He was obviously a very powerful individual as he is one of the only real people mentioned in the play.
Historically, Daniel O’Connell, was also known as the ‘uncrowned leader’ of Ireland acts a symbol of Hugh’s position within Baile Beag. He encouraged the use of English in National schools, which is essentially what Hugh did when he applied to the National School near Baile Beag. Yolland and Hugh talk about the second famous individual; William Wordsworth, on page 49. He was an English romantic poet, and because of this, Hugh dismisses him and states that he is ‘not familiar with his literature’.
Throughout the play, Friel tries to include as many well known events and characters as possible to add a sense of realism. Therefore, certain famous individuals, and the mention of them, boost the readers’ interest and increase the level of validity. The community is presented to us as being close, but with the English trying to anglicise, we realise that this is far from the true realisation. For example Maire and Manus; once engaged, but with the Anglicisation, Maire realises she wants better things from life, and proceeds to find these in Yolland, the Englishman.
Language also this splits this pair apart too, as we see Yolland disappear towards the end of the play, with the suspicion that he has been killed by the Donnelly brothers for breaking up the community. Overall, Friel shows the audience that the individual and the community are intertwined and are similar in their symbolism and characteristics. As language is integrated within society, the community is forced to separate. Individuals are described and portrayed as the powerful essence of a community, whilst the community itself symbolises the much-needed unity in order to preserve the culture and the individual identity of Ireland.