Understanding Cultural context enhances our overall appreciation of texts all narratives leave an impression on all those who read or study them and certainly the entertainment value can be enhanced by looking at the different aspects of these narratives. One of the features I personally enjoy most is looking at cultural context or the world of the text. This cultural context shapes what happens to characters, shapes the choices they make and reveals the influences that affect the lives of these characters. In each of the three texts I have studied, “Wuthering Heights”, WH, a novel by Emily Bronte, “Translations”, TS, a drama by Brian Friel and “I’m Not Scared”, INS, directed by Gabrielle Salvatore, cultural context or the world of the text is distinct and yet many aspects of this world is comparable with all three. In the three texts, setting reveals time and place, clash between two worlds are important, the roles of men and women are vital, social conventions, religion and politics all influence the plot and the fate of the characters. The exploration of these aspects enhances my appreciation of the texts.
WH begins in 1801 when a stranger arrives to stay in a great mansion known as thrush cross grange which he has rented. He decides to visit his landlord who lives in wuthering heights situated four miles away on a hilltop in the Yorkshire moors. The story is a saga covering three generations of two families who live in the luxurious grange and the more basic heights. T is a play which takes place over a number of hot days in a fictional town called ballybeg in county Donegal in late august 1833. INS is set in the 20th century in a small isolated town called aqua traverse. All three texts are set in small towns which are not connected to main cities or anywhere near normal civilization. T and INS are set over a few hot days unlike WH which begins in 1801 then goes back 30 years and finished in 1802. Another similarity between T and INS is that the character are mainly poor in T they are vulnerable to the English because the English rule the land and take over by anglicising the place names and the locals can’t do anything about it, Likewise in INS the poor Michelle wants to try and save fillipo but doesn’t know how to till the very end he is also very vulnerable in this situation as he would have to betray his own family to help Fillipo.
Another aspect that helps the reader or viewer to understand cultural context is the clash between two worlds. The clash of two worlds is very evident in all three texts in WH there is a clash between the two houses, In INS there is a clash between the rich north Italy against the poor south and in TS we see the clash between the poor vulnerable Irish against the controlling British. The two houses in WH are very different one house is passionate and the other is restrained. Wuthering heights and thrushcross grange are in many ways in opposition to each other. The heights lacks hospitality and domestic comforts: chairs lurk, meats hang from the ceiling, and the kitchen, like unwelcoming guests are “forced to retreat altogether” “wuthering as Lockwood tells us, is “descriptive of the atmosphere tumult to which is station is exposed in stormy weather”. Thrushcross grange on the other hand represents refinement, class, cultivation and propriety. It’s the hose Catherine aspires to socially, the house that will make her a “lady”.
In T there is also a huge clash on two worlds the local Irish are invaded by the English and can do nothing the English are there to anglicise the place names by stripping the meaning and just replacing the names with anything that sounds good in English. The locals are weak and cannot do much the change of the place names to English means that the whole Irish meaning will be lost the Gaelic meanings are very important to the people and by removing their meanings there is a huge conflict between the two. In T the clash is not very evident at first but we later on clearly see how the south is affected by the north of Italy. We see how poor the south is we see that they have the basics of every home but nothing more than that they live with what they get. The people of the south want a better life so they kidnap fillipo a rich boy from the north and ask for money if they want him back. Only the men truly support the plan of kidnapping the boy we can see the mother of Michelle is not very happy she want to leave the place deep inside she tells Michelle to leave when he is older as it is too late for her.
The clash of two worlds in all three texts is what in essence makes the story we see the cultural context through the clash in all the texts. A point which contributes to the CC is the role of men and role of women. We see that in all three texts men are in charge and women in acquiesce. In INS Anna the mother shows us really how vulnerable she is in many situations but the key moment which really shows us how vulnerable women is the scene after Michelle is found in the hole with fillipo the scene after this shows how bad Anna is treated she cries next to Michelle in the bed she tells him she can’t do anything and that he should leave this place when he is older she doesn’t want him living in this place as she know how bad the situation is. In WH at the time it is set in the women are supposed to be obedient and traditional but Bronte has Catherine who is none of these things similarly in T we see women are strong willed such as Bridget she wants to hide the animals when the British army threatens to kill them she takes charge “come on doalthy come on don’t be just standing there”. Marie stands up to master Hugh and wants to be taught English in school.
She works as hard as any man to make her way to America for a better life. Men in all three texts are In charge we see the manliness in almost every second scene in INS when Pino arrives the first thing he asks Michelle is whether he has been doing his push ups because he wants him to arm wrestle he calls him a sissy when he is losing at arm wrestling. We see Pino is also in charge when he makes his wife Anna do everything for him and there is no question about him doing it on his own. When Sergio arrives to live with him we see how Pino is nothing compared to him he is even more manly and in charge he orders everyone it might be because of the fact that he has a gun but his personality is very strong and he is always the leader and we almost never see him afraid of anything except at the very end when he is about to be caught by the police. We see in WH how Heathcliff also shows that he is in charge when he comes back to wuthering heights wee see how he mistreats his wife Isabella and later imprisons young Cathy and Nelly for a short while. He also treats Hareton cruelly as an act of revenge against Hindley.
Men and women are almost equally strong in T as they both have strong roles. WH and INS really show us how women are weak and how men control their lives and this helps us understand the cultural context more effectively. The last point which helped me understand the CC of the texts is the point of Money and Poverty. In WH money is not a problem the Lintons are very well off with the money they have they have caused a stir in the story Catherine wants to marry Edgar because she wants to be the richest lady in the land thought she loves Heathcliff. Money in WH is what makes the story at times. Meanwhile in T they have very little money but this is also not a big problem as they have been surviving like this for generations. Although they live in a small village they have a very rich culture and are very literate and intelligent they learn Latin in schools and Hugh is surprised that Lancey doesn’t know how to speak it.
People in T are living in poverty they have no money and will never have money because they don’t rely on it they have a very rich culture and enjoy life the way it is and does not affect them. In INS because they live in the poor south and don’t have a rich culture like in Bally beg. The lack of money drives them to kidnap fillipo they kidnap him because they want to leave this place and go to the beach. The beach is a symbol of happiness for Pino and the family. We see how poor they are with the scene when there are only two tomatoes in the fridge the lack of food shows us in the condition they live in. the TV is the main thing in the house that is of any real value and the boat which Pino gets goes on top of the TV because it is also something that is of value. The way they dress is another indication of their situation and shows us why they kidnapped the boy.