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Characters and their relations are effectivelly established in different ways by Brian Friel in his play ” Translations”. Friel uses the relations of characters to emphasise certain characteristics. By being subjected to the interpretation of a character through the opinions of other characters allows the reader to form a judgement of the character.
Friel uses stage directions to build-up a character.
Once the character is present on stage, if the character lives up to the characteristics mentioned in the stage directions the reader or audience can easily focus on these flaws or assets and therefore get a better understanding of the character. Manus is one of the first characters that is introduced in Act one. He is described to be in his late/early thirties, shabbily dressed aswell as, ‘ pale-faced, lightly built’ This description shows Manus to be a weak and feeble figure and this physial description suits his character well as when reading Act one, one learns that he is a very lame character who is easily manipulated by his father.
Manus’ weakness is shown through his relations with three characters, his father Hugh, Maire and his brother Manus. Although Hugh is an extremely able man, Manus accepts being ordered out by his father as though he were his servent. An example of this is, almost immediately after Hugh makes his first appearance in ” Translations”, he requests for Manus to bring him tea and soda bread.
Hugh shows no sign of gratification for Manus’ duties and the tone in which he speaks to Manus is patronising. His lame personality is also shown in his relationship with Maire. One of Maire’s stage directions is,
‘ Again Maire ignores Manus ‘ This stage direction sums up Maire and Manus’ relationship. It is made clear to the audience or reader that Maire and Manus have fallen out and instead of acknowledging that Maire wants nothing to do with him and moving on with his life, Manus desperately chases after her in hope of winning her back. His reluctance to move on shows how weak he is. Manus and his brother Owen, obviously do not have a close bond. This is apparent when Owen returns from living in the city for six years and Manus returns Owen’s warm greeting by saying, ‘ You’re welcome, Owen’
From this cold greeting one can assume that Manus is not pleased to see Owen yet he does not show his true feelings for his brother and remains civil. Manus’ tendency to avoid conflict is also shown when Owen translates Lancey’s speech and although Manus knows Owen has lead the community into false apphrensions, he bites his tongue and tells none of them. Although Manus is a lame character, he has a lot of depth to him and this is seen through his teachings. When his father is out drinking, Manus takes on his father’s role and teaches the hedge-school students.
His passion in teaching Sarah how to speak and the way in which he treats everyone in the classroom equally, ignoring his superior position, shows how his weak side can also be seen as an asset as he is always trying to avoid hurting and condemming people and tries to help people to his fullest extent and be curtious and civil. Manus’ father, Hugh is a lot less considerate of other’s feelings. His teaching methods include humiliating students and not giving them a chance to proove themselves.
Brian Friel establishes Hugh’s character in Act one by building his character up through the other characters’ impersinations of him. In a heated discussion on Hugh, Doalty pretends he is Hugh in an extremely mocking manner. ‘ Ignari, stulti, rustici – pot-boys and peasant whelps – semi-literates and illegitimates’ Doalty’s immitation of Hugh shows that Hugh looks down on his students and feels that his age and position as a teacher renders him to act superior to those around him. Doalty continues to mock Hugh by saying, ‘ Three questions. Question A – Am i drunk? Question B – Am I sobre?
‘ From this comment, the audience learn that Hugh is often drunk. Due to the English take over, the constant fear of potato blight and the poverty that Irish people such as Hugh had to live in, it was not unusual for the Irish to want to find an escape from reality; Hugh’s escape is to drink. Doalty never gets to the third question but the audience learn that he does this intentionally as Hugh can never get to his third point. This implies that Hugh can never get to where he wants to be in life. This inference makes perfect sense when Hugh’s Latin is takin into consideration.
Hugh constantly bomards his students with the Latin language and seems to speak more Latin than Irish. He always refuses to teach his students languages such as English, as he says that English is ‘ for the purpose of commerce’ This suggests that Hugh is relucatant to move on with the times and is stuck in the past, holding on to dying languages instead of moving on with languages that will keep him alive. Hugh’s loyalty to the old languages is not shared by his son Owen, who comes back to Baile Beag to help the English translate Irish place names.
None-the-less, Hugh adores his youngest son and when Owen returns, ‘ Hugh’s eyes are moist – partly with joy, partly the drink ‘ Hugh does not show any true respect to any other characters in the play except Owen. Owen’s presence overwhelms Hugh, who is usually a very cold character. This suggests that Owen makes his father proud, unlike his brother Manus. Hugh has good reason to be proud of his son, as Owen moved out of the dying town of Baile Beag and became a successful buisnessman owning nine shops.
It is also clear that Owen is probably the most loved character in Baile Beag, as practically the whole community get on well with Owen and are glad that he has returned home. Owen’s reason for returning home, is to help the English translate Irish place names in to the English language. Many Irishmen would not have considered helping the English let alone work along side them. This shows Owen to be an open-minded character who does not give in to the prejudice attitudes of most of his people. Owen even calls the two English soldiers that he works with ,