A Cream Cracker Under the Settee. Alan Bennett

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The melancholy of life, death and old age, are one of the many issues dealt with, in Alan Bennett’s heart-rending tale. It tells the story of an isolated, fragile, elderly woman, who feels ensnared in a modernised society in which she strives for her sovereignty and prominence. In a culture where the old are forgotten, neglected and depicted as useless. ‘A Cream Cracker Under The Settee’ seems to be the perfect title of the play as the double entendre epitomizes this remarkably. In addition, another reason for the dramatic piece being called ‘A Cream Cracker Under The Settee’. Is because a cream cracker was indeed found under a settee in the play, this makes the title rather ironic. As the title in many ways also symbolises the character of Doris as she is depicted as a lost soul, abandoned, waiting to be found and cared for. Throughout ‘Cream Cracker’, the protagonist: Doris, speaks to an unseen audience, this could be seen to be another allegory used to signify the title of the play. As although the audience is unseen to Doris as ‘the cream cracker under the settee’ is unnoticed, this may be used to indicate that although the object is concealed, this does not make it any less important than the objects that are perceived.

Doris as a tragic woman confides her anguish and despondency in the spectators, placing, yet involving the audience into the position of a voyeur, or an eavesdropper, in which they are given an insiders’ view of the protagonist life. The stream of consciousness of the narrator in which, her revealing herself unwittingly to the viewer suggest, an invasion of privacy, as the audience are shown the events within Doris’s life which have caused her great suffering, self-destruction, and distress through references to past experiences, hence becoming drawn into the tale of the protagonist, as the audience becomes more responsive to Doris, as dramatic tension accumulates within the play. The tragedy of the poignant downfall of Doris is further amplified by the fact that play is from a single viewpoint (monologue), this helps to provide the onlookers a detailed description and deeper insight into Doris’s sentiments, life and current situations. Bennett’s choice of a monologue is represented to be a symbolic metaphor of Doris’s loneliness and isolation within ‘Cream Cracker’, as the entire play is acted out in solitary perspective. Consequently, escalating the audience’s understanding of Doris’s emotions and state of affairs, this helps to intensify the sense of tragedy within ‘Cream Cracker’ as the protagonist is brought alive for the audience. Bennett’s portrayal of both the simplicity of everyday life and yet the problematic situations which an ordinary individual may need to conquer in the course of their life, are successfully captured in immense minutiae through the character of Doris. Doris, the narrator is a seventy-five old widow, who due to her painful past experiences has had inadequate living circumstances. Her entire outlook on life has been distorted to such extremes that she has become a prisoner of her own anxieties and fear of the outside world. ‘Cream Cracker’ commences with Doris sitting awkwardly on a low chair, after falling from a stall whilst doggedly dusting out of reach, strictly against the orders of her home-help, Zulema. Doris here, portrayed as a house-proud fanatical cleaner, who is determined in maintaining by any cause what is left of her independence. Bennett cleverly associates the idea of Doris’s failure, to efficiently remove the dirt on her shelf, to be an extended metaphor of the protagonist failure to reach her independence. Subsequently, leading Doris to the dreaded ‘Stafford House’. These attitudes and stereotypical beliefs towards the quality of care given to those in the old people homes, ‘They even mix up your teeth.’ Can be depicted to be a result of the protagonist fears that the remaining control over what is left of her live will be lost, as a consequence of...
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