What means does Alan Bennett use to help us to understand the truth about Lesley in Her Big Chance

Topics: PhilosophyTruth

Talking heads was a BBC drama television series produced in the late 1980s. The first six monologues were screened in 1987 and a further six were broadcasted in 1998. The monologues give us access to people’s most private thoughts. The individual tells their side of the story. Sometimes they reveal a lot more than they mean to, leaving the audience to investigate their lives further and piece together clues from what they say to create a character in their mind. Each monologue shows us a varied life.

They are all melancholy and dramatic. These monologues also give us an insight of everyday British lives in the 80s.

Her Big Chance is about young imprudent women named Lesley. Her obsessive career as a “professional” actress takes over her whole life so it becomes not just a job, but her world. She ends up being seduced by many men and manipulated into things she doesn’t really want to do, leading to her acting in an abominable manner.

The most tragic element being her acceptance of this treatment, believing it is part of her much admired career. These twelve monologues were written by Alan Bennett, born in 1934. He went to Oxford University and by 1960 he was at his prime.

Aspects of Bennett’s life can be found in his monologues. During the 30s Britain had a strong sense of community. The nation was hard working but was also male dominated. There were strict morals such as girls having to be married before sexual intercourse.

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We can see some opinions from the 30s reflected in Her Big Chance. For example, Lesley sees it as normal for men to push her around and abuse her. Bennett’s early years were spent during World War Two. This harsh upbringing means he would have encountered shortages, caution, great fear and perhaps at times boredom.

The audience will notice that young Lesley’s life in the beginning is merriment and over exaggerated. This could represent what Bennett’s childhood lacked, and the things he desperately wanted in his younger years. Bennett says at the begging of talking heads “he has met many Lesley’s”, evoking the idea that the monologues are semi-auto biographies. The monologues were cheap to produce. During the 80s the BBC was cutting back their drama budget; therefore Talking Heads was the perfect series to put on air. The series was produced using just two cameras and each monologue took only six hours studio time to create.

Compared to earlier high quality dramas, Talking Heads was a successful drama on a tight budget. Thatcherism played an immense influential role in people’s lives in the 80s. When Margaret Thatcher became the first women prime minister in 1979, the idea of community was beginning to break down. People became more independent. We see the feeling of independence in Lesley’s character at times. The feeling of freedom spread and with it raised the divorce rate. Society became hard working but selfish. It was now believed that you could do anything if you tried hard enough.

The idea of fame became exceedingly popular. Lesley’s opinions and morals are linked to this reforming society and culture. She believes that if you give a lot you get a lot. She also thinks she is famous. Although the equal rights act being introduced a few years before Thatcher’s rise to power, Britain still held many aspects of a male dominated nation. We can see this when the men in Her Big Chance manipulate Lesley into doing things she is reluctant to do. However, she still obeys them. This drama is called Her Big Chance, but why did Bennett choose this title?

I believe the purpose of this title is to mislead the audience. Bennett has used irony here to get our brains thinking about various meanings within the title. It holds many meanings and represents both Bennett’s and Lesley’s view of the situation in the monologue. When the audience first read the title, they presume this drama will be about a person, who has come across an opportunity that could change their life forever in a positive way. Once we have read the monologue thoroughly and understood Lesley’s character, the titles hidden meanings are revealed.

As we see in the monologue, due to her lack of understanding, Lesley always considers her role in the pornographic movie as a useful experience and never regrets coming across the job ( as we see when Lesley tells us she’s glad she went to the party because that’s how she got the part). So the title, if taken literally, represents Lesley’s interpretation of the monologue. She really did see this as Her Big Chance and still does. However, Bennett could have written the title with the intention of a sarcastic meaning. This would be supporting both Bennett’s and the audience’s personal view of the situation.

This wasn’t really Her (Lesley’s) Big Chance, his just making fun of her. This title gets the audience thinking like Lesley, in the beginning. By the end of the drama, we see the true Lesley, and think like Bennett. This is what happens in reality when we build a relationship with someone. Firstly we go by the person’s opinion of them self. We then begin to find out their true personality and our view of them as they reveal more about their past and we watch their behaviour and interaction with others in general. Bennett begins this monologue with a dramatic and highly shocking opening.

This rather bizarre comment by Lesley helps the audience understand more about her ludicrously stupid character. The first line she says is, “I shot a man last week. In the back. I miss it now, it was really interesting. ” It’s only the first line, and the audience has already been drawn in. I think Bennett wrote this cold and peculiar opening line to get the audience interested in this mysterious character encouraging us to read on and find more about this situation and this person’s psychotic and sadistic personality. The word “interesting” evokes this image.

The frequent use of fall stops and comers in this sentence builds up the tension even more so. However, the audience still have more unemotional and evil comments in store. This stone- hearted person then says “Still, I’m not going to get depressed about. ” Bennett seems to be turning the audience against Lesley by infuriating us and inflicting hatred towards her character. The idea that someone could be so heartless about a murder they just committed is almost unbelievable. She continues with the story, telling is more unwelcoming comments.

Suddenly she talks about crossroads and her acting career, this disappoints the audience a little but without this opening, we would miss out on many aspects of Lesley’s character. The audience see this being about a woman whose life is life is action filled and exciting. When we encounter Lesley getting a part in a pornographic, we are just bewildered; this was not what we were expecting after reading this opening about a cold-blooded murder. As we read further on we find out the truth, and the opening reveals some of Lesley’s hidden characteristics. Lesley revels the truth about this opening.

The audience see that this murder was acted out by Lesley’s character, Travis, “He spins round. Travis fires the harpoon and you see the spear come out of his back. ” This over exaggerated opening shows us Lesley’s incapability of drawing a line between home life and work. She appears to be trying to intimidate the audience giving her the feeling she has authority over us, and all the characters in the monologue, reassuring herself. She is abused so much in the monologue, that maybe she doesn’t want to risk being mistreated in this way again. She believes this threatening opening is the way to stop this.

Bennett could also be trying to tell us that Lesley is ashamed; she’s covering up and manipulating the immoral truth so it doesn’t look as negative. Throughout the monologue, the audience will notice Lesley insulting other characters. Lesley rarely sees when she is being mistreated, but when she does recognise this foul treatment she snipes back with a harsh insult. Not only does she snipe when she feels bullied, but also when she feels her authority has been overruled by someone else. This can be seen when Lesley’s water skiing role is given to another women.

She tells us she is “Pleasant enough, but doesn’t look a bit like me (her),” clearly bettering herself. She then makes comparisons between the new girl and herself. “I’m quite petite, only she is on the large side and whereas my hair is auburn, hers is defiantly ginger. ” Lesley emphasised the fact the new girl is “ginger”, which is clearly an insult. Its obvious Lesley is jealous of this woman for getting her much wanted role, because she is bettering herself by insulting her. If Lesley was really a “professional” like she says she is, she wouldn’t be sulking about a small part like this.

Bennett is showing us here her immaturity. Maybe Lesley has glimpsed the truth that she is not really a great actress and so makes nasty comments about the women’s appearance, reassuring herself that although she may be the better actress, she has the better appearance. Lesley never, even at the end of the monologue understands her role in this movie. Bennett is showing us here her stupidity. At the beginning of the monologue when she is talking about the party, she tells us that she’s “glad I (she) did (went) because that’s how I (she) got the audition” This just sums- up Lesley’s ridiculously stupid personality.

She has had a week to think this over and still, she doesn’t understand that she was used and manipulated into acting in a pornographic film. The director Simon asked to see her in her “bra and panties” They forced her to apply sun-tan lotion while topless, and yet has failed to see the film for what it is. But why? I believe that Bennett is not just showing her stupidity here, but her almost identical personality with Travis. Travis goes around topless and draws male attention, Lesley sleeps with three men during the monologue. This is just one similarity.

Travis is abused by men in the monologue, Lesley tells us that Travis was hit my her boyfriend “at an earlier junction” Lesley is always mistreated by men, by saying “you knew he was my boyfriend” because “at an earlier junction you’d see him hit me across the face” she is really telling us that in her eyes that’s how men treat woman, and that it’s a fact of life. Could Bennett be highlighting the problem of sexist men in the 80s and how Britain was male dominated? Being so like Travis means that all of this seems normal to Lesley.

There was nothing suspicious about having to act someone sleeping around and filming sexual intercourse scenes. Lesley does this in real life, sleeps around. As the audience sees, Lesley is constantly manipulated and abused such as the comment from Scot “Let’s face it, dear. You’re not used to working. Why don’t you bring you knitting? ” and many other insults throughout the monologue. Lesley also tells us that “Travis is a good-time girl, although you never see me having a good time. ” This is just like Lesley, she tells us about this part and how she shot a man in the beginning, but we never see her having any fun.

This is why Lesley fails to see anything wrong with this film, she doesn’t draw a line between acting and real life as Scot says to Lesley when she says “it back to real life” he replies “some of us never left it. ” Showing, characters in the monologue also see this. This conversation also shows us that Lesley, although she constantly tells us she is, is not a “professional”. Professional actresses do not live their part. They don’t go around sleeping with their directors like Lesley. However we can see why Lesley fails to see the film for what it is.

If we was to get an acting job, and our character we played was like us, we wouldn’t see anything wrong in it because we would be insulting our self if we said anything negative about the character. Lesley agrees with Gi?? nter that the film is “very moral” She wouldn’t want to say it isn’t because that would be calling herself immoral. Although that is exactly what she is, she wants to hide away form the truth, she only likes to hear what she wants to hear. Lesley manipulates information to help us understand more about her character. The audience can see Lesley manipulating information when she goes to a distant friend’s party.

She tells us that she “surprise(s)” her “friends by not being much of a party goer”. She uses the excuse that she would “rather curl up in a book” The audience never see these friends and she gives no names, and it is clear that Lesley is extremely lonely and has no one. Lying in this way shows us she is ashamed and embarrassed of who she is and desperate to make new friends. She goes up to Spud as soon as she sees him. Why isn’t she talking to her “friends”? If she had any she wouldn’t have been on her own in the first place. She uses the excuse “would rather curl up in a book,” because she probably never been to a party.

Lesley goes into so much detail about it that it’s obvious she is excited about it proving she has probably never been to one before in her life. Lesley being manipulated by so many men proves she is too trusting, but still thinks she’s better than them. We can see this when she sleeps with Spud after the party. Spud and Lesley get talking about a film project Spud is working on. He asks Lesley if she is an “actress”, Lesley replies “Interesting you should ask because as a matter of fact I am. ” The audience have just herd about her past experience on crossroads. She seemed interested in anything except acting out her part as an extra.

Even this small role witch did not involve any speech, was too difficult it seems for Lesley to manage. All she spoke about was the layout and the props. This just proves to the audience she is not a “Professional actress” like she says she is. She is just an extra and she can’t even sit and eat a meal. If Lesley was a “professional” she would have gone into detail with Spud about her possible role but she doesn’t, evoking the idea she is far too trusting and an easy target. When Spud comes back, he tells Lesley that the director is seeing possible replacements at an address in west London.

He tells Lesley that he is “based in Ealing” which is also west London. Although he has just pointed out, Lesley’s stupidity has got the better of her and still hasn’t worked out why Spud is telling her this. The audience by now are beginning to see what he is after. Lesley tells him that her stamping ground is “Bromley for her sins”. He replies with “that’s a fairish cry. Why not bed down at my place” The audience automatically knows what he wants and now, so does Lesley. The audience are thankful and relived when she says “Thank you kind sir, but I didn’t fall of a Christmas tree yesterday,” meaning I am not stupid.

This quote can also represent Lesley’s humorous language. These over exaggerated terms clearly show that Lesley is trying to appear well-educated and sophisticated. Maybe to gain authority over Spud? It seems that it’s a constant battle with Lesley too be better and higher than everyone, she does this through her language and snipes. But we and Spud see right through this. He covers this accusation up by telling her he has a “son in hotel management” and a daughter with “one kidney” and he has his “sister-in-law staying”. Most women by now would have walked away.

Most people wouldn’t even sleep at a stranger’s house. But this is Lesley, and she does. Then we are then told “His vest had electrician all over it. ” She don’t see the sister-in-law, and she comes up with the conclusion that she is “still tracing around Olympia” Why, didn’t Lesley walk out when she noticed that these were all lies being told? This shows us both her stupidity and her trustworthy attitude are negative characteristics. Saying his “vest had electrician all over it” is heightening her status. She is associating him as a person from the lower class.

Showing she feels guilty and needs to make herself appear better than him, even though she has just been tricked into having sexual intercourse with a complete stranger. This lack of understanding makes the audience cringe with embarrassment. Gi?? nter soon learns how to manipulate Lesley. Throughout the monologue he pressures her into doing many things she is reluctant to do. At the end of the monologue, Lesley asks Gi?? nter if “she was Travis? And whether he was” pleased with (her) my performance? ” It’s the next line that revels and basically sums up Lesley’s exceedingly foolish and immoral personality.

Gi?? nter reassures Lesley that “if someone is a bad actress (he) I can’t sleep with them. ” The audience find this quotation exasperating. We have given so many chances to Lesley, forgiving her. However, she continues acting in this disgraceful manner. Here, Gi?? nter is manipulating Lesley with complements; once Lesley feels part of a group she will do anything. This shows the audience that what Lesley is really lacking, is the feeling she wanted. After this, she tells us Gi?? nter is a “real artist” even though she has just been manipulated for the third time into sleeping with a man.

She usually insults men after they have tricked her. Gi?? nter is an exception, now she feels wanted by someone, she is nice to them. Lesley is so unintelligent that she fails to see what Gi?? nter is doing to her. Bennett has shown us here that Lesley will do anything if complemented. Bennett manages to get a serious message across, and still make this a comedy at the same time. He does this by Lesley’s use of film parlance and pretentious use of language. Not only does it add humour into the monologue, it also helps us understand yet more about Lesley’s complicated character.

An example of unintentional humorous language is when Nigel says we’re “cooking on gas”. He says this as a metaphor. Lesley takes this literally and replies “oh. I prefer electricity”. By doing this Bennett is entertaining the audience and stopping us from feeling tedious. It shows us Lesley’s persistent failure to understand everyday terms. Lesley’s ability to slip in a few specialist film words in her everyday speech such as ” we slated for the part” and ” we wrapped about six” show audience that acting is part of Lesley’s everyday life and is her only real interest.

She explains what each term means. When she says “(that’s film parlance for packed up) she is patronising and insulting the audiences intelligence. Her ability to be able to slip in these technical terms s also tells us she is very dedicated her career. Bennett then makes the audience see this is not the case. When Lesley is talking about her experience on crossroads, we can see that acting is not her main priority. She discusses toilet and food preparations. She then wonders why people don’t give her serious parts. The truth is she is not a great actress people just say it to win her over.

The audience find Lesley’s over exaggerated terms such as “Thank you kind sir… ” also quite amusing. This use of language clearly shows that Lesley does not get out much. This monologue has helped me understand more about the abuse everyday British women suffered in 1980s. By using these techniques, Bennett has revealed Lesley’s darkest secrets and taught us her true personality. The dramatic opening shows the audience that women wanted to escape this treatment. They acted as if everything was fine and that they weren’t being mistreated by men. Lesley’s character is representing many British women at this time.

We feel sorry for Lesley at first, but her stupidity turns us against her. The monologue is quite upsetting; the audience laugh at Lesley because of her pretentious use of language and over exaggerated terms as well as all the characters. Sometimes we can’t help but feel sorry for her. It’s when she shows little sign of regret we start loosing sympathy. Even a week later she still doesn’t regret being part of this film. Bennett defiantly succeeded at showing us this. He does in a clever way; he doesn’t quote these ideas in directly but adds a few hints in throughout the monologue.

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What means does Alan Bennett use to help us to understand the truth about Lesley in Her Big Chance. (2017, Jul 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-means-alan-bennett-use-help-us-understand-truth-lesley-big-chance/

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