A Kiss From France

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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CRITICAL ESSAY The theme of Brian Keaney's play, A Kiss From France", is that war changes the lives of ordinary people. The action of the play takes place between 1914 and 1917 in East London. The main Characters are Tommy, Sidney, Dorothy and Rose. Before Tommy joined up and became a soldier he was an apprentice at Ted Coleman's Workshop. Sidney was Tommy's friend and joined up with him, before that he and his wife, Dorothy owned a shop together. Rose was Dorothy's friend who Sidney did not like very much. Rose never had very much money as she had no money and she was a single mother with a little baby. During the War some people's lives were being changed for the worse, as people they knew were being killed. But other lives were being changed for the better as women were given men's jobs as they were away fighting for their "King and Country".

The play begins with a prologue, which shows a tableau of Tommy and Sidney in their army uniforms. Tommy is dead and Sidney is standing over him. Faure's Requiem is playing and this increases the serious mood of the scene. As the play progresses, the tableau of Tommy and Sidney at the front is repeated to remind us of the tragedy that is to happen.

Most of the play is told in flashback and scene one begins with Tommy and Sidney leaving to go and fight in France. Since Tommy has become a soldier he has had to leave his apprenticeship at Ted Coleman's Workshop and Sidney had to leave behind his newly married wife and their family business. Both Sidney and Tommy think that the war will be over within a few months and every will be fine, as nothing will happen to them. The both expect to win the war hands down. "We'll look after each other, and give the bloody Huns something to think about into the bargain". They also believe that it is their duty to "˜The King and Country' to go and fight for their country. Women are also used in the propaganda, to try and force men to go and join the war, by using poster and slogans. Other people like Vera believe that it is their sense of duty that sent them packing, as Vera points out to Albert Warren, "Well, Mr. Warren, it's a pity that everyone doesn't feel the same sense of duty".

As the play develops, Tommy and Sidney's illusions about the war are shattered. The play reaches a climax when Sidney speaks a monologue in which he tells us about the horror of the battlefield and the way Tommy dies. "The bombardment started at dawn, and it was sheer hell". When they where given the order to go over the top into no mans land, Sidney had never been as scared in his life before. As he ran over the bloody ground he could see the dead bodies, of both his side and the German side. He could see parts of their limbs being blow up and just lying there in the sticky mud. He could see men being cut up right in front of him. Sidney and Tommy just ran for their lives, every man for themselves. When they both got to the enemies trenches they ran along it. As they ran they came across a German who was still alive. The German just stood there looking at both of them, "We didn't think. Butchered him with our bayonets". When they were butchering him, they didn't care. The war had turned them into animals, as after he was well dead they kept of cutting and slashing him, to pieces. Eventually they ran on out of the trenches where Sidney sees Tommy struggling, trying to get his ammunition belt off as a German machine gun bullet had ricochet of it setting the belt alight, along with Tommy, "Then he began to go like a firework". Exploding all over, randomly. There was nothing Sidney could do but watch his mate die in sure an unworthy manner. People have pictures of men dying in war heroically and dying to save others in battle. Not in such a pointless, unworthy, shameful manner. Sidney sums up Tommy as "It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen". I think that this is a rather simple way of putting it but it does get the message across. As so as the machine gun stops firing the (one that played a part in killing Tommy) he just turns back the way he came and runs. He runs away as he does not want to be killed and certainly not the way Tommy dies.

By the end of the play, the lives of both Tommy and Sidney have been changed for the worse. For first Tommy has been killed and is sadly missed by his friends back home. As for Sidney he has been mentally scared for life by seeing what he saw during the war and especially by seeing his best friend being killed. When someone talks to him he just goes over and over what he saw and heard during the war, " It was sheer hell. Shells, trench-mortars, the lot".

The war also changes the lives of Dorothy and Rose. Dorothy isn't as enthusiastic as Sidney is, but she believes that he should go and fight for his "˜King and Country'. She hope that they both come home safe and sound, "Please God bring them back again safe and sound". Whilst Sidney is away Dorothy has to run the shop herself. Dorothy tries her best to be able to run the shop in her own, and she makes a real success of running the shop on her own. Whilst Sidney is away she employs Albert Warren to make the delivers for her and she gets Ted Coleman to build shelves for her. Her is changed though when Sidney comes home when she discovers he has had a mental breakdown, "Oh, please Sidney, don't start on that again" as he rambles on again about the terrors of war.

Rose is the character whose life changes in the most positive way as a result of war. At this time, women took over many of the jobs, which had been done by men who were now in the army, and the Women's Suffrage movement was begun. However, Rose faces a great deal of hardship, especially at the beginning of the play. At the beginning she has very little money and has to pawn personal items to get the money she needs to life. Later on she is given an eviction notice. She goes round to Dorothy's shop and tells her about the eviction notice and how she can't pay the landlord three months rent. Dorothy replies by asking her to move in with her whilst Sidney was away. Rose is in financial difficulty as she is an only parent, with a young baby, who stops her getting a job and she can't afford to babysitter to look after him. Sidney is not to chuffed when he comes home to see Rose staying there. Sidney regards Rose as "Getting her nose stuck into everything". Later on in the play Rose finds herself a job from a Mrs. Pankhurst, who is setting up a toy factory for people like Rose, a single mother. Which means that it is possible for her to earn enough money to support both herself and her young son.

By the end of the play it is clear that war has changed the lives of these ordinary people in a number of ways. Tommy has lost his wife while Sidney is haunted by the horror of the trenches. Dorothy has proved herself to be an able businesswoman but her husband is only a ruin of the man she married. Rose has found a way to overcome the extreme poverty which being a widow with a young child has condemned her to and her life seems more secure. The final speech in the play comes from Tommy who speaks directly to the audience and says, "You'd have gone to war, don't tell me you wouldn't". Tommy is trying to justify his actions to the audience, as it was his "˜Duty to the King and Country'. He is trying to say that even after what you have heard what happened during the war, you wouldn't let someone come along and take over your country and your belongings. I agree what Tommy is saying and I would have done exactly what he did and I would of fought for this country.