Translations By Brian Friel

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade September 2001

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WHAT DO WE LEARN ABOUT THE THEMES, CHARACTERS AND RELATIONSHIPS IN ACT I OF TRANSLATIONS? Translations is a play about the relationships between people who speak different languages and come from different backgrounds and cultures. In Translations, there are two main themes that are covered. These are the usage of language and communication and the Anglicization of Ireland in 1833. Translations interlocks these two themes to demonstrate the effects of changing a language (in this case the effects of trying to replace Gaelic with English) and the difficulty of communication when there is not a common ground to speak on. However, Friel also points out that language barriers can be broken down through the use of gestures, adaptation and learning.

This is shown particularly through the relationship of Manus and Sarah. Sarah is believed to be dumb but Manus teaches her to speak her name and this is the first act of translation seen in the play, the act of translating silence into speech.

This shows that even though they do not speak the same language, they still manage to communicate to each other using gestures 'Manus holds Sarah's hands in his and he articulates slowly and distinctly into her face'. Through Sarah learning how to speak her name out loud, the importance of identity is shown to the audience. Manus's reaction of 'Now we're really started! Nothing'll stop us now! Nothing in the wide world!' shows the importance of the language to him and the irony of what he says as when the English soldiers arrive their aims are to teach everyone to say their names in English, not Gaelic, for example Owen becomes 'Roland'.

The irony of names is also shown through Jimmy Jack. Jimmy Jack is known as the Infant Prodigy, even though he is in...