In this essay, I am going to discuss Friel’s presentation of English and Irish. Firstly, I will give a small introduction of ‘Translations’ and how it is illustrated. Act One introduces the characters Manus, Sarah and Jimmy. The surroundings, character, setting and principle collide into one subject matter. Hence, at the beginning, Friel uses a lot of negative lexis. The hedge-school is held in a ‘disused’ barn where the teacher Manus is to be described whenever he moves to be ‘lame’.
The characters speak Gaelic language due to set in Ireland, 1833, just a few after the devastating potato famine. Friel is trying to indicate that Irish was ‘dominant’, in command, that they settled there first then the English invaded the country few years later. The play indicates separation between the two nations and how it affects love, language and culture. Act one; give stage directions and impressions of a way of life, which is dying.
Language matter is that Maire uses language to ‘pin’ Manus down, ‘she did not, doesn’t matter, suit yourself’. Manus is too lame and weak to respond back, but every attempt he does not reply impolitely, ‘I saw you out at the hay’, (Maire ignores him). Jimmy throughout the play recites Latin and Greek phrases, as if Jimmy is in his world of his own, Ton d’emeibet epeita thea glaukopis Athene’, – classic Greek. Jimmy lives in a world of virtual reality, where Greek gods and goddesses mean much more than the actions and characters of those in Baile Beag. To him, it is perfectly ordinary to speak these ‘dead’ languages. Jimmy speaks classic Greek and lives in the past, it is also suggested to us that the community in Baile Beag live in a world of classics. It also suggest to me that the community live in a society which rather than focusing on the future, is very traditional. Greek culture has faded; the question in the audience is that, will the Irish language and culture fade?
Friel uses Sarah, which has been portrayed as ‘dumb’ to show us that there are difficulties in learning new languages. Manus encourages Sarah to speak. Due to complications in the language, there is lack of understanding between the characters. The setting reflects the English and Irish expression; consequently the background is an Irish speaking community. The schooling is in a barn, which is poor and abandoned. Although the characters have some element of positiveness, the atmosphere is unenthusiastic. For this reason, language does have positive and negative aspects no matter what the circumstance.
At the opening, there was a sign of ‘romance’ involving Sarah and Manus, when Manus bends down on one knee thinking to propose but does not, (but that it was we, the reader would assume to be). Also representing the ‘pairing’ between Manus and Sarah. When Sarah presented the flowers to Manus and in return kissed Sarah on the forehead. Manus desires Sarah to communicate. There is anxiety between Maire and Manus.
Manus is frustrated with Manus due to Manus will not make the most of himself. Therefore, the ignorance coming from Maire, (again Maire ignoring Manus) – stage direction. There are struggles with illiteracy, throughout the play. There was positive reference to ‘English Soldiers’ from Maire (p17). The play is about language problems and aspirations. A small community having its limitations about ‘love, language and culture’.
Generally, Baile Beag is an ‘impoverish environment’ where migration was increasing. The majority shipped over the Atlantic to USA to seek better living standards and independence. After the great hunger, most of the people migrated.