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"Brian Friel comes from Northern Ireland but lives across the border in the Republic. Borders and boundaries, exile, shifting between states - these are consistent keynotes in his work”. An Analysis of 'Translations' and 'Philadelphia, Here I Come' in light of the above observation.

"Brian Friel comes from Northern Ireland but lives across the border in the Republic. Borders and boundaries, exile, shifting between states - these are consistent keynotes in his work”. An Analysis of 'Translations' and 'Philadelphia, Here I Come' in light of the above observation.

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Ruth Murphy. Originally submitted for The Drama of Brian Friel at University College Dublin, with lecturer Malcolm Sen and Katherine O’Callaghan in the category of English Language & Literature
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Ruth Murphy. Originally submitted for The Drama of Brian Friel at University College Dublin, with lecturer Malcolm Sen and Katherine O’Callaghan in the category of English Language & Literature

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 29, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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10/27/2013

 
“[Friel] comes from Northern Ireland but lives across the border in the Republic.Borders and boundaries, exile, shifting between states - these are consistent keynotes inhis work”. An Analysis of 
Translations
and
 Philadelphia, Here I Come
in light of theabove observation.
Brought up in Northern Ireland, Brian Friel personally experienced the politicaldividedness of country and culture (Bertha 154). Borders and boundaries dominate his plays, both literally and metaphorically. Friel’s characters are often restless, constantly shifting between states of mind, language and time. Exile and immigration too are underlining themesin Friel’s drama. This essay will analyse two of Friel’s plays in light of these themes. It will be divided into two sections. Part one will analyse the boundaries, exiles and shifting states in
 Philadelphia Here I Come
(
 PHIC 
). It will do so in three ways, firstly, by highlighting theemotional boundary that exists between Gar O’Donnell and his father. Secondly, it willaccess the role played by exile, showing how Gar lives in a type of exile in his home and inorder to escape this, he leaves for Philadelphia on a self-imposed exile. Thirdly, it willexamine the various shifting of states in the play, be it between past and present or fantasyand reality. The second section of this essay will analyse
Translations
in the same way and itwill do so in three sections. Firstly, it will access the key role played by language indemonstrating the boundary that exists between the English and the Irish, while at the sametime showing how Yolland and Marie try to cross this frontier. Secondly, it will analyse thevarious shifting of states of language, be it between English and Irish or between Irish andLatin/Greek. Finally, it will access the role played by exile in this play, examining thehomecoming of ‘Roland’, the departure of Manus and the absence of the Donnelly twins.
 PHIC 
will now be discussed. Boundaries dominate this play in a figurative sense,seen most prominently in the relationship between Gar and his father. There is an emotionaldistance between the two men and meaningful communication has broken down as their conversations are limited to work-related matters, such as, the amount of ‘coils of barbed1
 
wire that came in on the mail van’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 8). In the opening scene, it is clear fromGar’s conversation with Madge that there is a vast emotional boundary between father andson. Gar rages about how SB treats him on his final day in Ballybeg: ‘Instead of saying tome: “Gar, my son, since you are leaving me forever, you may have the entire day free,” whatdoes he do? Lines up five packs of flour and says “Make them up into two pound pokes”’(Friel, PHIC, 2). SB, it appears, cares more about the productivity of his shop than his son’sdeparture. What is significant is that Gar reads his father’s lines in ‘flat dreary tones’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 2), which signify SB’s inability to express any meaningful emotion. Moreover, it isnot only SB who is unable to communicate how he feels. The stage directions indicate thatGar ‘assumes in speech and gesture a surly, taciturn gruffness’ when he is with his father (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 7). Gar is as distant as his father. He is annoyed at the way SB treats him, yethe, like his father, lacks the ability to say how he feels. He tells Madge: ‘I just drew myself up and looked him straight in the eye and said to him: “Two-pounds poke it will be”’ (Friel,PHIC, 3). Moreover, when SB and Gar sit down together for the last time, there is further evidence of the emotional boundary between them. SB’s only topic of conversation is aboutsetting the ‘rat-trap in the store’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 27). Private’s passionate outburst reveals theemotions Public cannot. Private tells his father that he is leaving because ‘you treat me as if Iwere five [...] because you pay me less than you pay Madge’ and because ‘we embarrass eachother’ (Friel, PHIC, 28). Gar desperately longs for his father to make ‘one unpredictableremark’ to show that he ‘did have feelings’ and make his son wonder if he should ‘have stuck it out’ in Ballybeg (Friel, PHIC, 28). However, SB says nothing, despite Madge’s attempt to break down the barrier between the two men through ironic comments: ‘The chatting in this place would deafen a body’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 29).However, each man does care about the other. This is seen when Gar asks Madge,‘You’d let me know if - if he got sick or anything?’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 95). It is expressed again2
 
when SB touches Gar’s coat, which is lying on his son’s packed suit-case (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 85)and when SB seeks Madge’s reassurance that he will ‘manage rightly’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 92)without Gar. While attempts are made to bridge this emotional divide between father and son,the boundary is sustained. For example, Gar asks SB if he remembers ‘the fishing [they] usedto do on Lough na Cloc Cor’, where his father showed affection for him by giving Gar his hatand coat (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 91). SB cannot recall the event and the moment is lost. ‘If the father in
 PHIC 
were able to engage with Gar’s memory of their moment of happiness together in the past, instead of meticulously searching for the ‘facts’ as to whether the boat was blue or  brown, then Gar might stay at home’ (Bertha 161). However, SB does have a memory of hisson, when he brought Gar to school ‘hand in hand’ in his ‘wee sailor suit’ (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 93), but he shares this memory with Madge, not with Gar. Public’s plea: ‘Say something, father!’(Friel,
 PHIC 
, 71) demonstrates the extent of the distance between father and son. On the lastoccasion when the pair will see each other, neither man is able to make that ‘oneunpredictable remark’ and tell the other how they feel. Instead, they reveal their true feelingsto the walls of the house or to Madge, but not to each other.Furthermore, exile dominates
 PHIC 
. Pratt correctly believes that Friel’s plays are fullof a ‘more figurative kind of exile’ (Pratt 445) and this is true in the case of 
 PHIC 
. Gar livesin a figurative exile in his home in Ballybeg, seen in his relationship with his father, friendsand dead mother. As already shown, there is a vast emotional boundary between Gar and hisfather. This contributes to Gar feeling like he is living an exiled existence. Additionally,when the Canon comes over to the house for a cup of tea, Gar is exiled from the conversationas SB and the visitor engage in their meaningless dialogue. Gar retires to his bedroom, physically indicating this exile. Significantly, the stage directions specify that he leaves thedoor open (Friel,
 PHIC 
, 81). This illustrates how he longs to be part of what is going on.Additionally, Gar’s exiled state is also seen when ‘the boys’ come over to see him before he3

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