An examination of Keneally's The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith through Friel's Translations
If medium is the message, as suggested by Marshall McLuhan, much can be said about the difference between a novel and a play. As he explains, the medium is an extension of human facility, "The wheel...is an extension of the foot. The book is an extension of the eye... Clothing, an extension of the skin..." (McLuhan). Thomas Keneally's novel The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith explains this phenomenon as Jimmy's chant. It is not only what drives Jimmy, but it is a manifestation of proven and perceived social malfunctions. This chant is an extension of Jimmy, and it is therefore his message. Where Keneally is able to flesh out a complex main character with intense actions and conflicting inner monologues in his novel, Brian Friel is restricted to the format of a play in Translations. Using this medium, Friel must elaborate different emotions through different characters, many of whom have attributes similar to Jimmy Blacksmith.
At their core, both stories are fictionalized accounts of true events. British imperialism is the similar theme in each, and both elaborate on the destruction of society and the reaction of the indigenous peoples. Translations illustrates the attempted dissolution of the Irish culture by British solders. Map makers are sent to survey and re-inscribe the entire island of Ireland. This is clearly an attempt at revising history, and erasure of the Irish's sense of the past. In this case, the existence of culture acts as the medium, and is an extension of their way of life. More specifically names of towns on the maps are quickly being translated from Irish to English, effectively changing both the medium, and the message. This cultural genocide is something that is comparable to the human genocide that prefaced The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.
After a large percentage of aboriginal tribes were destroyed by the British in Australia, the...
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