Use of Language in Waiting for Lefty Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 13 July 2017

Use of Language in Waiting for Lefty

Clifford Odet used a wide range of language techniques to convey the differences between the different characters, the relationships between the different characters, and the attitudes of individual characters. The language that the characters use in the play tells us about their personal details, such a what ‘class’ they belong to and whether they were educated or not. From looking at the character of ‘Joe’ we see that he is of working class and not particularly well educated. We know this as he uses a great deal of colloquialism in his speech, ‘pulluckas’.

Also by looking at the language used in the text we see how Odets has tried to convey to the actors how to say certain line. For example the character Joe again, says, ‘helluva’. In Standard English this would be written as, ‘hell of a’. Odets however has written it like this so that the actor knows exactly how to read the line. The words are supposed to be rushed and squashed together, again another sign of Joe’s working class status. Another reason why Odets has chosen to use language like the above is to add an essence of realism to his play.

He wanted to make sure that real people (working classes) could relate to the message that he was conveying in his play so therefore he needed to speak their language. Use of such language would have been good to get the audience on a characters side and round to their way of thinking. It would have made the working class audience at home with the characters. Odets also liked to use ‘Similes’. ‘Fatt’ was just but one character that spoke a lot of rhetoric language. E. g. ‘out like lions and in like lambs’. Such phrases gave the audience things to think about and gave a contrast to the colloquialism also used.

It also showed which characters where better educated than others and therefore were less likely to be working class. Odets also favoured the use of colours in his language. At one point in the play ‘Fatt’ says, ‘red and yellow makes a dirty colour boys’. The ‘red’, referring to communists and the ‘yellow’ referring to cowards. This use of colours in the language added to the texture of the piece. It allowed the audience to think more deeply about what was actually being said without being to taxing on their brains. The use of racist language also shows us the ignorant attitudes of many people back in the 1920’s.

It is also only the rich, upper class, pompous characters that the audience are supposed to unlike, that use racist language. Perhaps in Clifford Odets cries for a more equal society he was also quietly calling for the liberation and equal rights of blacks and Jews. In conclusion I think that the colloquial language that Odets used ensured a popular contemporary audience whilst the rhetoric language allowed for a more educated audience member to break down underlying meanings behind the text. I have found Odets use of language both appropriate and well thought out in this play.

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