Friel raises issues, explores them to a certain degree. However the end is left open. The play “Philadelphia, Here I Come!” is both realistic as it presents real life situation, but also expressionistic, trying to dig into Gar’s subconscious. Gar has a choice to make, ultimatum that could vary depending if S.B. was to reveal his true emotions towards his son. Gar lacks the same attribute as his father; the ability to communicate with one another. Gar also failed to make an oral impression on Katie’s father in the past and this element cost him her hand in marriage.
We are presented with Private Gar and Public Gar on the stage. Public Gar is the Gar that people see, talk to and talk about. Private Gar is the unseen character, the alter ego of our main hero. Although Public Gar is the only person that can hear Private talk he never looks at him, he cannot look at his alter ego. On stage two characters play Public and Private. One utters what is acceptable and the other utters what he’d really like to say if he wasn’t so inhabited.
The central struggle is not between the public and private but between Gar both private and public and his father S.B. Apples don’t fall far from the tree, also outlined in the play by Madge who describes them as “two peas” that way Gar and S.B. are very similar, they are both afraid and embarrassed of expressing themselves emotionally. Neither one of them wants to look soft nor weak in front of one another, being emotionless proves their masculinity.
Gar cannot think straight talking to his father, he contradicts with his thoughts and feels awkward just like he did asking Katie’s parents for her hand in marriage. Eventually we are taken back in time via flashback where we see Gar and Katie in love, they are planning to get married although Gar doesn’t earn enough to support them both, he is afraid to ask S.B. for a rise. Friel made a very deep and realistic attempt to present an ordinary Irish family and problems they are faced with, lack of money in the sixties and most importantly the overdose of masculinity which leads to lack of communication between father and son, issue that may occur in many people’s lives.
Music is used to outline the mood changes and current flow of emotions of certain characters; Gar uses a turntable to present his mood and eventually gets frustrated and changes the record to a much more dynamic track, this way author presents the emotions of characters to the audience. The piece of music seems to suggest anxiety, change, and excitement – all emotions that Gar is feeling at that particular moment. This way Brial Friel attempts to dig into Gar’s subconscious.
There is a nearly institutional quality to the shades of green, and the dim overhead lighting focuses attention in the central spaces over the kitchen table and Gar’s bed in the two rooms of the split set. Almost everything happens round the kitchen table, Gar’s friends drink and talk, S.B. plays a game with Cannon, Gar talk to S.B. about irrelevant stuff.
The entire play happens within twenty-four hours and we are reminded of it throughout by the highlighted clock in the kitchen and clamorous sounds of the clock ticking in between the events. This way, Friel wants to point out the inner conflict of our main hero of the play, his time is running out and eventually, it will be for him to decide whether he leaves for Philadelphia or stays in Ballybeg. This is a play about finding one’s place in the world wherever that might be.
Madge clears out some of the unresolved issues by telling us how Gar’s mother died and that S.B. in fact does have feelings but is unable to show them in public, it buggers him and he couldn’t get any sleep the night before Gar’s departure “It must have been near daybreak when he got to sleep last night”.
Even though Gar’s new career in Philadelphia is meant to give him a new life, with lots of money and anything he would have ever wished for. Madge sees this as a way of escaping from Ballybeg and most importantly his father, “and when he’s the age of the boss, he’ll turn out just the same. And although I won’t be there to see it, you’ll find he’s learned nothing in between time”.
Another important relationship is the one between Gar and Katie; they were in a serious relationship when they were younger. Her Father, Senator Doogan refused for them to marry after Gar miserably failed to make a positive verbal impression on Katie’s father. This scene is presented with a flashback where Gar’s mind flows back in time to that particular event. Kathy and Gar are happy together in his vision, Private Gar sarcastically responds to Kathy’s concerns about their possible future and money issues, “(imitating) how will we live?”
Gar often repeated Edmond Burke’s speech on French Revolution “It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France, then the Dauphiness, at Versailles” he eventually realises that all this time he has been thinking about Kathy Doogan, this way Friel dug deep inside Gar’s subconscious by revealing his repression of emotions.
In the end we don’t know whether he leaves for Philadelphia or stays in Ballybeg. Friel decided to keep the ending opened it’s for us to figure out whether he has any reason to leave or perhaps stay.
In conclusion, Friel uses many stage directions to connect the audience with the characters. He presents us with Private Gar, alter ego that raises many concerns about his inner feelings, which we wouldn’t know about if Friel was to use just Public Gar. Flashback is presented to show previous events from the past in order to get deeper understanding of Gar. Music is outlined in the play to show Gar’s current emotions and their change for example we can tell his mood changes as he decides to play a much faster song. The entire play happens within twenty-four and we are reminded of it by the highlighted clock in the kitchen and clamorous sounds of it in between the scenes.
Issue of the lack of communication between Gar and S.B. never gets resolved; we can tell that both of the characters suffer, as they’d like to express themselves. In the end with an open ending and not much gets resolved. It’s up to the reader to put the events in order and make personal judgement on the possible outcomes that may have resulted in the play.