The Shifts in Power Within Brian Friel's Translations

Essay by patsmithHigh School, 12th gradeA-, June 2004

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Question: Discuss the various shifts of power within Friel's Translations and evaluate their significance.

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The shifts in power and the conflict which this causes are crucial aspects of Brian Friel's Translations, and this conflict can be seen, and is caused by, the cultural, linguistic and ideological differences between characters, particular the English and Irish. Probably the primary reason for this conflict is the continued disempowerment of the Irish, which grows more evident as the play progresses, and can be linked to the simple act of mapping the Irish countryside, which not only acts as a means of measuring Ireland, but also changing the culture of its inhabitants. I believe that Friel deliberately used this device in Translations to enhance the drama, and meaning, of his work, and this has been effectively done in Translations.

The history of the Irish people, like that of many around the world, is a story of continual conquest and disempowerment by foreign forces.

From the Romans invasions to that of the English, this imperialism has impacted on the culture and life of the Irish, but none has been able to fully assimilate their way of life. Even the colonisation of the English, which has been in place for over 400 years, has not been able to fully achieve control over the Irish culture, due to the fierce resistance of the conquered people. This cultural difference between the English and the Irish is the primary source of conflict in Brian Friel's Translations, and this can be viewed in many ways. Firstly, we see the Irish as the past; a stagnant, fossilised society who are unwilling to change to the new ways, while the English are the future, in that they are viewed as new and always evolving. A striking example which upholds...