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In the monologue ‘Shirley Valentine’, Willy Russell reveals Shirley’s true character through different types of humour. He compares other characters feelings to Shirley’s to express her own feelings more (as Shirley’s feelings are determined by the actions of other characters) She is a typical housewife of the 1980’s. The reader can relate to Shirley because she has such an average life. In the monologue, Willy Russell is showing the time in Shirley’s life where she has the opportunity to leave her boring, average life behind.
The other characters that Shirley introduces are compared to her because they are so different to her. Shirley’s husband Joe is totally different to Shirley. When he comes home from work one evening he says that he is “pullin’ me tripe out from mornin’ till night and what does she give me when I get home. Chips an’ egg.” Joe expects things to be done his way and can’t except change easily whereas Shirley is desperate for change and when it comes along she takes it in her stride. Joe goes crazy if things aren’t done his way yet Shirley is a very laid back woman.
Shirley is going through a big turning point in her life and Joe picks up on this as he “knew it, it’s the bleedin’ change in life isn’t it?” This shows that Joe isn’t stupid and is more intelligent than he first came across as. This also shows that Joe has feelings and isn’t stubborn all the time. This is dramatic as at first we think Joe doesn’t care but without realising it suddenly he shows that he does care a lot.
Shirley and Joe used to be happy together but now she feels they have turned into different people as “somewhere along the way the boy called Joe turned into him and Shirley Valentine turned into this” By first referring to Joe as “the boy called Joe” and then “him” and Shirley as “Shirley Valentine” and then “this” Willy Russell has made this part dramatic. We are made to feel sorry for Shirley as she obviously enjoyed herself more when she was younger and now she has lost all that and we feel she deserves to be happy and so this is why we feel sorry for her that she has lost all happiness.
She reflects back to her school life and tells us about the time when she knew the answer to a question but was told to “put your hand down, you won’t know the answer” This shows that people have always put Shirley down and she has learnt to live with disappointments. The fact that she is now reaching out and trying to break free from disappointments makes the monologue dramatic.
Another place where Shirley is starting to break free from her average life is when her daughter Millandra comes back to live with her. Shirley is already making changes in her life but when Millandra comes home, Shirley goes “straight back into being ‘Auto-Mother'” This shows that Shirley is so used to doing everything for everyone that she is just going back to her old ways. Willy Russell has made this incident dramatic when she suddenly snaps out of being “Auto-Mother” and tells Millandra that she is going to Greece.
When Shirley goes to Greece she almost forgets her life at home and trys to be as happy as she was when she met Joe. She meets Costas in Greece, and he claims that he “won’t try to make foak with” Shirley, but she says “I knew Costas wouldn’t keep his promise an’ I didn’t want him to as it was the most natural thing in the world” This shows that Shirley wants to ‘go with the flow’ of her life and not be tied down by rules but live the way she wants to.
This is dramatic because she was such an average woman before hat was following on the straight and narrow and went by rules but now she is more relaxed and willing to do anything to feel happier. I also feel that this is a cry out for help from Shirley, it shows her helplessness and that she has given up on her life and wants to forget it by trying to create a new one somewhere else. She also meets Dougie and Jeanette and says that they think “the sun was too hot for them, the sea was too wet for them, Greece was too Greek for them” This suggests that Shirley feels that they are too uptight and that Shirley has always been relaxed and laid back.
It is dramatic when Shirley talks to the wall and the rock “Oh shut up wall” she talks to them as if they can talk back, but she is not stupid. She simply talks to them to get her feelings out in the open as she shows she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about her problems, not even her husband- this is dramatic as she knows the wall cannot tell anyone her secrets or laugh at her but she feels everyone else will.
A variety of humour is used throughout the monologue. One of these is irony, and an example of this is when she meets Marjory Majors who she wanted to be like in school. But Marjory informs Shirley that “I’m not an air hostess…I’m a hooker” This is ironic as they both wanted to be like each other in school as they were totally opposite people and without realising it they have grown up to be like the other person, which is what they originally wanted.
Another example of dramatic irony is when Jane says that she is a “feminist” and then on the plane to Greece she “met a feller” This is ironic as it shows that Shirley is right not to trust her and to talk to the wall as Jane can’t make her mind up and the fact that Shirley is not surprised with what Jane has done shows that she knows her too well and not to trust a word she says. This is the attitude that Shirley is trying to escape from, she doesn’t want to be around people that say one thing but mean another.
Shirley’s laid back look on life and “I can’t be bothered to be treated like this anymore” attitude makes her stand out from her normal surroundings. She doesn’t seem to fit in and is completely different to the other characters that are originally around her. In a way she seems a lot more intelligent than them as she is caring for everyone and is a slave in her own house and everyone else is only wrapped up in their own lives. No one else around her would be able to go to Greece on their own to get away from things, as they are already suited to their surroundings whereas Shirley isn’t and the monologue is about her trying to find the place where she is meant to be.
In conclusion, Willy Russell has cleverly used dramatic devices using humour, setting and other characters including the wall and the rock to help portray Shirley’s true character to the audience.