Owen's Role in Translations

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Due to the fact that Owen is both a native of Baile Beag, and an assistant to the English, he represents a number of contrasting points of view throughout the play. Firstly, he is a representative of the more forward-thinking Irish, such as himself and Maire, in the sense that he realises that the natural progression for Irish society at this time is with the English, and not against them. However, it is arguable that this acceptance comes on the back of the fact that he has the ability to understand the English – he can speak their language, and in doing so has crossed the most fundamental cultural divide that separates the two nations. Furthermore, in doing so, he has progressed as an individual, and bearing in mind that the play was only written in 1975, perhaps suggests Friel's opinion that progress can only come after understanding, and it is a lack of this that is at the heart of the world's problems even today. To add to this, the fact that Manus can speak English, yet chooses not to, shows the importance of communication to progression. The fact that he prefers to converse in classical languages is perhaps a symbol of the backwardness of his home, and hints at the idea that should this ‘military operation' develop into a more violent one (which, as Friel would know, in history it eventually does), the Irish, for all their romanticism, do not realistically stand a chance. The most significant enemy in the re-naming of the places is that the Irish believe it to be a removal of their heritage and tradition, as Manus says, ‘What's ‘incorrect' about the place-names we have here?' It would seem that Owen's view on the idea of the preservation of tradition is to question tradition altogether. When he and Yolland are discussing what to call Tobair Vree he asks ‘do we keep piety with a man long dead, long forgotten, his name eroded beyond recognition, whose trivial little story nobody in the parish remembers?' Here Owen points to the Irish people's almost...
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