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Sive by John B. Keane – Key Scenes

1. Opening Scene (until Thomasheen Sean Rua comes in)

Cultural Context

The stage instructions at the start give some insight into the context of 1950’s rural Ireland, which is insular and where people were not well off (“the kitchen is poorly furnished”). There are typical features of a rural cottage of the time – the sugan chairs, the black skillet hanging over the fire, the creamery tank, the sack of flour. The old lady (Nanna) smoking the pipe also suggests a very different cultural context to modern times. There’s a suggestion of changes to come – the next generation, represented by Sive is getting educated (and until “about 18) in her case). But old ways die hard and Mena resents the opportunities Sive has – “Out working with a farmer you should be, my girl, instead of getting your head filled with high notions”. These are opportunities Mena didn’t have when she was young – “When I was her age in my father’s house I worked from dawn till dark to put aside my fortune”. We learn about how emigration was part of the cultural context – Nanna tells how Sive’s father went to England for work (but was drowned in the mines). We see that cars were unusual in rural areas in these times (at least years earlier when Sive was born) – when the doctor came on the night she was born people thought the headlights (“two roundy balls of fire”) were the eyes of the devil, which also shows the level of superstition in this cultural context. We also hear the distinctive local language – e.g. “the calves are bawling”, “the hobs of hell”, “bohareen”. The cultural context in Casablanca is also conveyed well in the opening scene of that work where we get the flavour of a very distinctive setting, but of course it contrasts strongly with the cultural context of Sive. Time wise there’s only about 15 years in the difference, but geographically and historically it’s very different – e.g. there’s no political aspect to Sive, no outside forces...
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