The opening movement can be referred to as the gathering where the characters are introduced to the audience9. It is evident that the sequence in which Friel presents the characters to the audience on stage is significant. Primarily, an obvious observation to make would be the entrance of the Irish community to the stage, followed by the English. However, the entrance of the Irish community to the stage alone is equally important, appropriately starting with Manus, Sarah and Jimmy Jack. These characters are the least accepting of Englands colonialism, and refuse to acknowledge the inevitable changes (Manus for example refuses to speak English.). It is quite fitting therefore that Owen is the last Irish member to enter the stage; for he has not only embraced the unavoidable changes, but he has joined forces with the English to enforce them. Unlike his brother Hugh, and the other Irish members, he fails to appreciate that the roots of the Irish culture are masked in language.
Friel also has additional reasoning for such a pattern of entrance. Hughs entrance following his attendance at the baptism of Nellie Ruadhs baby for example enhances the importance of naming in the play. I strongly agree with the critic Leon Litvack who stresses It is not so much the naming and the changing of names, but what that signifies and what those names signify in a particular context10. In the second and third acts there is celebration and breakdown together. Effectively, Friel contrasts the first two celebratory acts with the final act of breakdown, to represent the scattering of the Irish people and the collapse of the Irish culture. Hughs return from the christening of Nellie Ruadhs baby in Act one and his return from the babys wake in Act three symbolises simultaneously Britains colonialism of Ireland, and the death of the Irish language.
Baile Beag can be perceived in Translations as a microcosm of Ireland11. In a similar way, one could thus support the view that the desire of the English to make a map is itself a microcosm Englands desire to colonise Ireland. Therefore, Friel uses this to represent how the roots of the Irish culture are destroyed, through the destruction of Irelands place names. Lanceys blinkered statement that a map is a representation on paper reinforces this viewpoint. However, I disagree with critics such as Andrews who over historicize the play, claiming that Friel attempted to portray the map as an extreme act of colonialism. In order to correct Friels so called historical errors Andrews claims that the map was much more of a civil measure, rather than an oppressive military act.
In support of Friels own words that the play has to do with language and language only it is important to highlight the relationship between names and identity. Friel maintains that names, culture and relationships (embodied in language), establish identity. He supports this theory through the character of Sarah, a girl with speech difficulties, silenced by the colonisers she knows she cannot.
She closes her mouth. Her head goes down. In contrast to this, in A Passage to India Forster suggests that identity is found on a more spiritual level, and is only masked by names, culture and relationships. Ironically, while Forster focuses on the complexity of three different religions, places and seasons to emphasise the importance of the individual, Friel adopts the small hedge school of Baile Beag, and the personal relationships within the school to stress the significance of language on a larger scale, and its importance when considering Irelands loss of identity through colonisation.
In A Passage to India Forster questions the importance of language, relationships and culture, illustrating the significance of the spiritual understanding of the individual. Forster achieves this primarily through the character of Mrs Moore, and the spirituality of Hinduism. However, the issue of colonialism is less important in A Passage to India, and plays a more prominent role in Friels Translations. Unlike Forster, through the colonialism of Baile Beag Friel demonstrates his belief that the core of a persons individuality is held in language, and without it their culture, relationships and names are lost.