Friday, 8 February 2013

Comparative Study, "Inside I'm Dancing", "How many miles...?" "Sive"

Comparative Study.

General approach to answering questions
  • Identify clearly your three texts. You may not use any of these texts for your answer on the in-depth (single text) question.
  • Spend time working on the question. Make sure you understand every aspect of what is being asked before you start your answer.
  • Begin by working on a rough draft. Write down several points from each text related to the question. Try to back up some of these points with a quote from that particular text.
  • Write out your answer in rough draft format.
  • All the material from your texts must be tied in to your answer in a fluid and natural way. Do not divide your answer into sub headings with the title of the texts at the top. The main thing is to link or weave the texts naturally, and show how they relate to the question asked, jotting down all points of comparison or contrast between the texts.
  • Organise your points into paragraphs, and make sure that you have used quotation/reference from the texts as much as possible.
  • Put priority and order on your points and make sure that each point refers in some way to the question asked.
  • Start writing the answer and stop at the end of each paragraph to examine what relevance it has to the question asked.
Always to give yourself time to conclude a comparative answer. Go back to the actual question and make a statement on the question and the relation to all texts. This statement may simply draw a contrast or form a judgment about the different texts.

Sive - John B. Keane
Plot Summary
The story is centered on a young  eighteen year old girl called Sive who is illegitimate. She lives with her uncle Mike, his wife Mena and Nanna who is Mike’s mother. A local matchmaker Thomasheen Sean Rua decides that Sive should marry an old man called Sean Dota. Sean is rich but old and haggard. Thamasheen convinces Mike and Mena to organize the marriage of Sive to Sean Dota. They will receive a sum of two hundred pounds as soon as she marries him.
Sive however is in love with a young man by the name of Liam Scuab. Liam however is not suitable as he is related to the man who abandoned Sive’s mother when he realized that she was pregnant. Mike refuses permission for Liam to marry Sive on this account.
Sive is distraught but is forced to do the will of her uncle and his wife. Nanna does not approve and would prefer her to marry Liam. Two local tinkers by the name of Pats and his son Carthalawn connive together and decide to help her escape from Sean Dota and marry Liam. The plot fails however as Thomasheen discovers the letter and destroys it. On the night before her marriage Sive disappears and shortly afterwards her body is discovered in a bog hole. Liam finds the body and carries it in to the house announcing to Mena and her husband that they are responsible for her death. As Liam cries over the dead body Sean Dota and Thomasheen both leave the room. The play concludes with Pats and his son singing about a maiden who was drowned as she would not be a bride.

There are two different versions of 'Sive'  -a two Act and a three Act play. The time span is roughly about three weeks in total. The dialogue in the play is filled with conflict and realism.

Cultural Context/Social Setting
The background of this play is Ireland in the fifties. It is a time of harsh poverty and people are measured in terms of the land and the crops they possess. There are many references to the fear of the poorhouse and the rough reality of poverty. Marriage and love are both seen in pragmatic terms in relation to the amount of possessions a person has. It is a time when matchmakers were popular and local trades flourished. The land is an important feature of the play.

General Vision or Viewpoint
The general vision or viewpoint of this play is somber and tragic. It seems inevitable from the outset that Sive will be forced to marry a man she does not love and who is years older than her. The overall impression of people reflected in the play is negative. Most of the main characters seem to spend their time exploiting others and simply using them to serve their own self-interest.

Theme or Issue
Love /Marriage
In this play love and marriage are treated very negatively. Thomasheen who is supposed to be the local matchmaker and bring together people who love one another in marriage queries cynically to Mena ‘what business have the likes of us with love? The whole notion of love and marriage becomes synonymous with selfishness and self-interest. Mena and Thoasheen are seen as two despicable characters who have no interest in anything else but serving their own interests and pockets. Both are governed by selfishness and see Sive’s marriage to Sean Dota in terms of monetary interests and particularly monetary interest which will benefit themselves.

Women are shown to be strong characters but they are also shown in a negative light throughout the story. Both Mena and Nanna fight and insult one another in an abusive manner and both are seen to be embittered people in different ways. Nanna despises the fact that Mena has no children, while Mena sees the presence of Nanna in the house as  a continuous source of irritation. Sive on the other hand is seen as a victim of the selfishness and self-interest of the people who should be helping her in life. At the conclusion in her tragic death we see the destruction of a beautiful young woman through the greed of other people.
The question of money dominates almost every line of this play. Set against a backdrop of rural Ireland governed by poverty, this play depicts the tragic consequences on people of the need for money. The whole notion of marriage is seen in terms of money and as the character of Mena develops we see that she despises poverty. Sean Dota and Thomasheen the matchmaker turn out to be two despicable people who use money to wield power over people.

Aspects of Story
TensionTension builds up in this play gradually. When Sive disappears on the night before her wedding the tension is at its peak.
The climax of this play occurs when Liam discovers the dead body of Sive in the bog hole.

The resolution of the conflict in the play occurs in the death of the main character Sive because she wished to escape from a marriage which was forced on her. It is only Liam Scuab who really grieves over her at the conclusion.

Hero / Heroine / Villain
HeroThe hero of this play is Liam who is faithful to Sive right to the end.
The heroine is undoubtedly Sive who is a passive victim of the self-interest and selfishness of others.
The villain is Thomasheen and Mena who both conspire at every turn to use their power over Sive and force her to do their will.

Inside I'm DancingDeirdre O Donnell
Inside I’m Dancing also known as Rory O’Shea Was Here (2004)This is a story of two unlikely friends who choose to tackle life head on in the face of difficult circumstances.  It is a heart-warming and thought provoking tale which charts the development of this wonderful friendship.
Plot summary
The film begins in Carrigmore Residential Home for the disabled, the centre claims to be a ‘special home for special people’. It is run by the formidable Eileen (Brenda Fricker) and has clearly established rules and norms. Michael Connolly (Robert Stevenson), a young adult suffering from Cerebral Palsy, has lived here all his life. He is a model of good behaviour within the home.
The safe predictability of Michael’s life in Carrigmore is disrupted and enlivened by the arrival of Rory O’Shea (James McAvoy). Rory suffers from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy but with his quick wit and sharp tongue he rebels against the rules of the establishment almost immediately. The maverick Rory transforms Michael who is stunned when Rory understands his CP affected speech. On a superficial level they appear to be complete opposites; Rory listens to loud music in the middle of the night, he uses coarse language and he gets Michael to spike his hair when the nurses don’t have time for such fripperies, he is rebellion personified whilst Michael is a model patient.
Rory has one key goal in life and that is to get out of residential care fast and lead an independent life. His numerous applications are refused by the Independent Living Award Panel on the grounds of irresponsibility and insufficient maturity. Michael sees his friend suffer the despair and heartache of losing his chance at freedom. Michael’s father, who refuses to acknowledge his disabled son, is a successful lawyer. It is clear that his son has inherited his legal mind as he secures the funding for Independent living and then employs Rory as his interpreter. It is a joyous scene as the friends leave Carrigmore in search of independence in the city though Eileen bitterly quips: ‘it will all end in tears’.
The boys secure a ground floor apartment in the city centre which Rory describes as ‘cripple heaven’. They employ the beautiful but strong willed Siobhan (Romola Garai) as their carer. She has no experience of caring for people with disability but her care, humour and affection show her adapting well to the role. For awhile they are all blissfully happy, eating pot noodles, drinking champagne and enjoying a carefree existence. However, both Michael and Rory are attracted to Siobhan. The party scene is particularly painful when Michael tries to physically claim her as his own. When she rejects him, he is hurt and wounded. On their return to the flat there is an emotionally charged scene in which Siobhan clearly states that she cares for Michael as it is her duty but she does not love him. She further argues that neither is his love for her real but that he is confusing the emotion with some sort of misplaced gratitude for her care. It becomes impossible for Siobhan to remain working for the friends and she leaves.

Her departure leaves Michael dejected and he seriously considers returning to the safe predictability of Carrigmore. Rory refuses to allow his friend regress and urges him not to give up on his future. He employs the familiar cliché: ‘You’ve got the whole world in your hands’ to demonstrate future possibilities but also to remind Michael of the dull musical evenings in Carrigmore.
Sufferers of Duchene Muscular Dystrophy have a low life expectancy. After an attack in the apartment twenty one year old Rory is hospitalised and his prognosis is poor. In his final conversation with Michael he continues to encourage his friend to remain independent, he reassures him that he is capable of doing things for himself. He has one final wish which Michael realises for him. With the aid of Siobhan, as his interpreter, he returns to the Independent Living Award Panel and appeals the rejection of Rory’s Independent Living applications. His argument is self assured, convincing and poignant. The panel had rejected the application on the grounds of ‘insufficient responsibility’. Michael challenges the panel that it is only by making ones own decisions and mistakes that one can truly become responsible. He reminds them that they granted him funding and freely admits that until recently he had no idea what independence even meant but they cruelly prejudiced against Rory whom his friend describes as the very embodiment of independence. The panel is aware or Rory’s prognosis and find it bewildering that Michael is bringing this case at all. Michael’s aim in bringing the case is simple: a right must exist independent of its exercise.
Successful in his appeal Michael returns to the hospital to learn that Rory has passed away. After the funeral Michael refuses to be despondent as Rory’s spirit will not allow it.  The final scenes of the film show him confidently manoeuvring himself through the busy urban terrain and embracing the joy of independent living.

The film is classified as a comedy/drama. It may be further categorised as tragicomic because although there is great humour in the film it deals with serious issues. The humour is warm and infectious. O’Donnell’s unpatronising affection for the characters is clearly evident. Rory, with the aid of some kids from the flats, robs a car and careers dangerously around the complex. He is angry when the police are reluctant to detain him due to his disability. He demands to be arrested. The issue of equality is being addressed here but our laughter at Rory’s belligerent countenance is unavoidable.

Theme or Issue
The theme of friendship is in many ways the central focus of this film. The story charts the relationship between two young men who on a superficial level are complete opposites, one rebellious and outspoken the other well behaved and undemanding. Rory’s arrival to Carrigmore transforms Michael’s life. He has only ever known the safe predictability of the residential home. Rory’s capacity to understand his friend’s almost unintelligible speech proves to be the catalyst for a powerful friendship. The two young men leave the home, achieve independence and experience the full range of human emotions from happiness and joy to heartache and frustration.
The film’s director Damien O’ Donnell has claimed that at its essence this is a film about accepting yourself, believing in yourself and finding your place in the world. It is a tale of carpe diem where two indomitable individuals rise above cruel circumstances; in this case their disabilities, and find their own place in the world. In Carrigmore Rory questions Michael’s aims in life: ‘Do you want to survive or live?’ When the friends secure independent living we see them truly living, they get drunk, kiss girls, rob cars, fall in love, resent one another, fight bitterly, reconcile; ultimately they are no longer surviving but living life on their own terms.
The theme of disability is also central to this film. Michael suffers from Cerebal Palsy and Rory from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The question of the appropriateness of residential care for young adults is addressed through Carrigmore Home for the Disabled. Rory’s loud heavy metal music and spiked hair are symbols of a modern world which seem far removed from the dull existence of life in the home. The issue of independent living and access to such services is also a major concern in the film. As a film which deals with the theme of disability, O’Donnell has been criticised for casting two able bodied actors in the lead roles. He has defended his creative decisions.
The development of the relationship between Michael and Rory is the main focus of the film. In many ways this is a ‘Buddy movie’ where the audience gets the opportunity to observe the growth in this friendship from, its infancy in Carrigmore. It is a story of two young men, direct opposites who meet and become friends. We observe this relationship develop as they move in together and engage with the world outside the home. We see them fall in love with the same girl and watch the frustration and heartache they experience. Their friendship is strong and enduring. After Rory’s death, his maverick spirit encourages Michael to embrace his independence.
Siobhan works as the friends’ carer. She is beautiful and strong willed and it is clear that both men are in love with her. Initially the three form a happy carefree alliance eating pot noodles and drinking champagne. It is clear that the quick witted Rory has feelings for her and there are some tender moments between them which suggest that she feels the same, though neither ever verbalise their affection for each other. Michael becomes completely infatuated with her and in the party scene he is left wounded and despondent when she rejects him.
Social Setting
The film is set in contemporary Ireland in the urban topography of Dublin city. Carrigmore in many ways seems to be removed from the modern world beyond its walls. It is a caring institution but elements of everyday culture such as Rory’s loud music and spiked hair are unheard of in the institution and frowned upon by the formidable director, Eileen. Modern attitudes to disability and services for the disabled are also explored. Issues such as access to suitable accommodation are addressed during the friends’ search for a suitable apartment; they are shown an apartment accessible only by steps while the real estate agent overlooked this and only realises his blunder when Rory draws his attention to it. Voice activated lights in their apartment are not particularly suitable for Michael whose speech is severely impaired. These issues are dealt with humorously but point to the lack of appropriate services for the disabled in our society.

Michael Connolly
Rory O’Shea
Siobhan                      (care assistant)
Eileen                          (director of Carrigmore Residential Home)
Annie                          (nurse in Carrigmore)
Con O’Shea                (Rory’s father)
Fergus Connolly     (Michael’s father)
Tommy                       (patient in Carrigmore)
Peter                            (male care assistant)


Dublin – urban setting
Contemporary (modern day) Ireland

Theme or Issue:       

Outsiders and their search for identity. The film’s director, Damien O’ Donnell, has claimed that at its essence this is a film about accepting yourself, believing in yourself, and finding your place in the world. It is a tale of ‘carpe diem’ (‘seize the day’) where two determined individuals rise above cruel circumstances (in this case their disabilities), and find their own place in the world.

Friendship is the central focus of the film. Rory’s capacity to understand his friend’s almost unintelligible speech proves to be the catalyst.

Disability is an issue with regard to its challenges and the ignorance of society towards the disabled. Michael suffers from Cerebral Palsy and Rory from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The question of the appropriateness of residential care for young adults is addressed through Carrigmore.

Freedom is possible although not without its problems. The issue of independent living and access to such services is a major concern in the film. Rory questions Michael’s aims in life: ‘Do you want to survive or live?’ When the friends secure independent living, ultimately they are no longer surviving but living life on their own terms, and this allows them “find” themselves.

Vision and Viewpoint:    

Perceptions of social structures: Carrigmore? The Health Board? Law Courts (representing societal justice – through the character of Fergus Connolly)?  

Viewpoints regarding Restriction (safe predictability) v personal freedom (independence). Carrigmore is a caring but conservative institution. Elements of everyday culture such as Rory’s loud music and spiked hair are unheard of in the institution and frowned upon by its director, Eileen. The two young men leave the home, achieve independence and experience the full range of human emotions from happiness and joy to heartache and frustration.

The heroes, who are in conflict with society, demonstrate values of courage, strength and determination. O’Donnell’s unpatronising affection for the characters is evident.

Modern attitudes to disability and services for the disabled are also explored. These issues are dealt with humorously but point to the lack of appropriate services for the disabled in our society and highlight the ignorance of society's general perception of disabled people.

Literary Genre:           

Comedy drama, but it may be further categorised as a tragicomedy because, although there is great humour in the film, it deals with serious issues.

Social reality

Symbols / motifs: doors and windows, music, railings, hairstyles, weather (pathetic fallacy). For example, Rory’s loud heavy metal music and spiked hair are symbols of a modern world which seem far removed from the dull existence of life in the home.

Carrigmore” translates from the Irish language as “big rock”. Could this suggest a cold, hard existence? A mountain to climb? That the men are 'between a rock and a hard place'? etc. (ignore last suggestion which is clearly cheesy!)

External and internal conflict is explored through various cinematic techniques

How Many Miles to Babylon
As with many of the characters in Johnston's novels, Alexander Moore is a young man who tries to escape the responsibilities and limitations of the class into which he has been born by forging a relationship with someone from the opposite side of the great social, religious and political divide.
Through the character of Alex, Johnston offers a picture of life in the Big House before its fall. The only child of a bleak marriage, Alex was brought up in the Big House of an Anglo Irish estate outside Dublin. It is an isolated and lonely existence and is made all the more unbearable when Alex is forced to discontinue his friendship with Jerry Crowe.
He finds himself confined to the world of his sparring parents; an ineffectual but genuine father and a cold, manipulative yet beautiful mother. The awful tension between two people at war with one another, and the effects of these hostilities on their son, is convincingly captured in the first part of the novel. By her own admission this may be due in part to Johnston's own experience of the break-up of her parent's marriage when she was a child and her own divorce from her first husband. As Alex faces his execution, he makes it clear that it is the combination of the expectations placed on him by his social class and his mother's rejection of him that have led to his impending death.
Alex's life has been marked by indecision and cowardice and, ironically, it is the one brave and decisive act of his life that both saves him and marks his end. Alex runs away from the social and personal isolation of life at home only to find it follows him to the trenches of Flanders. His friendship with Jerry isolates both of them and its warmth seems to be at odds with the coldness of war.
How Many Miles to Babylon is not merely another of the many post-war comments on the futility of war, because Johnston adds a new, specifically Irish, dimension to the picture. Through the characters of Alex and Jerry, Johnston seems to be suggesting that it is their Irishness that sets them apart and allows them to maintain their humanity in the face of the pervasive dehumanisation of war. In asserting his own humanity above his role as an "officer and a gentleman", Alex raises himself above the horror of war and redeems himself. The tragedy remains, however, that his redemption costs him his life.


This novel is written in the genre of social realism, which means that it does not exceed the limits of reality. The characters are identifiably accurate as historical types, being Anglo Irish gentry and Catholic in Ireland of the early 20th century. Their personal qualities reflect these backgrounds, as do the prejudices that divide them at home at and war.

Cultural Context

Alex and Jerry live very close together, but a world apart in terms of their backgrounds. Alex is an only child of a wealthy Anglo Irish couple whereas Jerry is part of the Catholic underclass, two very different cultures.
Alex was educated at home and learnt the piano. As this meant virtual exclusion from friendships with other children, Jerry's friendship was crucial for him. Jerry's background was in an ordinary school that he left when he was very young to work.
Their reasons for going to war are also different. Jerry had been involved in the Republican movement whereas Alex was running away from his collapsing family, having learnt that his father was not his father. When faced with life and death on the battlefield, social class ceases to exist, though ironically it can be emphasised by the issue of army rank, which can give reassurance and stability in such a situation. To Jerry and Alex, however, this is not important.
Despite their disparate backgrounds, the two men have one driving similarity in their personalities. They are both at war to escape personal issues and neither is remotely interested in the war or glory.

Plot Summary

This is the autobiographical narrative of a man facing death. Alexander Moore, an Anglo-Irish lieutenant in The British Army during World War I, recounts the events of his life which have led to his present circumstances. In defiance of the demands of his class-bound parents to give up his friendship with local Irish boy, Jerry Crowe, Alex enlists with Jerry and both find themselves in the trenches of Flanders under the command of the cold and heartless Major Glendinning. The Major treats their warm friendship with suspicion and disdain and when Jerry goes AWOL for three days to search for his wounded father, Glendinning sentences him to death, insisting Alexander take command of the firing squad that will carry out the execution. Unable to follow such a command, Alex visits his friend in his cell and shoots him with his own pistol. At the end of the novel, Alexander himself is waiting for his own execution.

Themes and Issues

Alex, as narrator, is clearly isolated from the start. He lives in a constrained and silent family, "Their only meeting place was the child". As a child, Alex was left alone and even when he was with his parents he felt alone.

There was rarely sustained conversation between Alex and either of his parents. There was intense embarrassment between he and his father if the conversation touched on personal issues. However, there was an understanding of some warmth between them. Both were lonely men. Alex describes his father, "All in all he seemed glad of my company, but in the same way that a man from a desert island must be glad to see and talk to his own shadow from time to time."
Alex felt no warmth for his mother. She was a cold and distant woman. She was obviously unhappy with her marriage and her bitterness was directed at her husband. Alex was surprised that she insisted that he should enlist in the army until he understood that she needed him to go so that this facade of family life would no longer be maintained.
This was the time, she decided, to inform Alex about his real father. Alex changed forever once she spoke these casual words. There seemed nothing else to do but to enlist as a way out of this unbearable situation. Alex realised that he had been cut loose from his father and felt completely alienated from his mother, disgusted and appalled at what she had hidden from him for so long.
Alex felt that he had been "dispossessed in a sentence", leaving him nothing to stay at home for. What had been a flimsy family structure had now disintegrated and Alex felt completely alone. The knowledge that his only friend, Jerry, was enlisting spurred his own decision to enlist. However, there was little solace in the activity of war to ease Alex's pain. He remained an essentially lonely figure apart from a couple of brief glimpses of happiness when the men dashed across the countryside on horseback or when they met secretly in the army camps.
At both the beginning and end of the novel, Alex is an isolated figure. "I love no living person... I have not communicated with either my father or mother. Time enough for others to do that when it is all over."
War is an ever-present issue or theme treated in the novel. The reader is forever conscious of the effects of war on the human psyche. During the Ireland scene in the introduction there is a strained atmosphere because of the gradual intrusiveness of news about the war. This begins to have an unsettling effect on the occupants of the Big House especially when local men are injured or killed.

As they always do in a war situation, human values come into question as the novel progresses. One clear contrast between such human values becomes evident on the battlefield. While Alex and Jerry are aware of their differences in rank, it is not a vital issue for them. Here is where they come into conflict with Major Glendinning for whom rank is vital. Authority between ranks is crucial at all times if the army morale is to avoid collapse.
War brings out conflicting emotions in each person. There is an inner confusion in Major Glendinning. On the one hand, for him, rigid army rules emphasising authority must override all human emotions in order for the army to function adequately. The Major is completely inflexible with regard to Jerry's appeal for leave to search for his dead father and shows no sympathy as he sentences him to death. Major Glendinning is adamant that the correct procedure must be followed. Yet in contrast he does show the ability for compassion when he has the courage to risk his own life to end another man's suffering. He crosses the enemy's line of fire with Alex towards the agonising screams of a man who had lain dying for four days.
Alex also struggles with his emotions. He is unable to accept the Major's decision to punish Jerry, even though he is capable of understanding the Major's reasoning on one level. However, his sense of loyalty to the army and the principles it attempts to uphold is far stronger than Jerry's. Here, Alex's emotions override his allegiance to army values.
Johnston shows that friendship can find unimaginable depths. He shows, also, how the war situation can bring out the best and the worst in people.
Alex's family issues are made very clear early on in the novel. His experience of relationships is limited to his parents' unhappy marriage, which is partly because of him. Friendship is therefore a new and exciting experience which he looks back on as perfect, "Looking back it all seems idyllic." Jerry has no such need for friendship and his motivation for becoming involved is mainly curiosity about the people in the Big House.

The class barrier obstacles put in the way of their friendship serve only to strengthen it, though they have to work to find common interests such as swimming and horse riding. Alex's mother sends him to Europe for four months and after enlisting, Major Glendinning is also opposed to their "unsuitable friendship." Alex and Jerry remain determined to continue their friendship, especially Jerry, who is prepared to take risks for it.
The final emphasis of the strength of the bond between them is Alex's act to end Jerry's life. Personal loyalty is demonstrated to be stronger than the rigidity of army rules and the resilience of the friendship is placed solidly as the novel's principle theme

Theme or Issue, Vision and Viewpoint, Literary Genre


Outsiders and their search for identity

Hero's feelings  /  Isolation and Alienation  /  Expectations  /  Hopes and Dreams  /  Secrets and Lies  /  Influence of the past  /  Conflict – internal and external  /  Struggle for acceptance  /  Failures and successes  /  Frustration and Escapism  /  Education  /  Positive and Negative experiences  /  Love relationships  /  Relationship to parent(s)  /  Resolution

What particular vision of life is presented by the writer? This viewpoint is reflected through the themes / issues raised in the text. Compare / contrast different ways of looking at life, or to examine if there is coherence or a lack of coherence between viewpoints.

Point of view of writer  /  Values and artifacts  /  Social class and snobbery  /  Importance of education  /  Influence of institutions  /  Relationship difficulties  /  Perception of women / youth  /  Nature of escapisms  /  Memories and dreams  /  Optimism and pessimism  /  Problem of identity  /  Changes in environment and reaction to them  /  Secrecy as a toll for survival  /  Criticisms of social rituals and norms

This refers to the category of the text and the methods used by the author to tell his or her story.

Medium  /  Genre  /  Setting  /  Public v Private conflict  /  External conflict  /  Symbols  /  Motifs  /  Opening / Ending  /  Narrative techniques  /  Humour  /  Clash of interests  /  Language / Dialogue  /  Imagery  /  Stereotypes  /  Hero or Heroine portrayal  /  Villain portrayal  /  Key moments

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