The Mad Thick Feck: Using Linguistic Clues to Characterize Padraic

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<ul><li><p>Running Head: THE MAD THICK FECK: USING LINGUISTIC </p><p>The Mad Thick Feck: Using Linguistic Clues to Characterize Padraic </p><p>David Clarke </p><p>Sam Houston State Univeristy </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1680</p></li><li><p>The Mad Thick Feck: Using Linguistic Clues to Characterize Padraic </p><p> Linguistics, a diverse field, full of depth, can provide valuable insights into countless </p><p>aspects of literary texts. Linguistic analyses of poetry and prose are abundant, yet drama does not </p><p>seem to get the linguistic treatment as often. However, a linguistic analysis of a characters </p><p>speech in dramatic texts can shed much light on how the character is portrayed. I argue that </p><p>Martin McDonagh uses language to cleverly depict a character that, because of his position of </p><p>power within a terrorist cell, expects everyone he encounters to yield to that power. Then again, </p><p>because of McDonaghs use of linguistic manipulations, which show who has control within </p><p>conversations, the people he interacts with actually yield to him because he is seen as being </p><p>crazy, somewhat slow-witted, and very dangerous. Therefore, these characters do not see him as </p><p>someone to fear because of his position of power; instead, they acquiesce because they wish to </p><p>avoid pain, suffering, and fatalities at his hands, or because they have romantic feelings for him. </p><p>A Wee Bit of Background Information </p><p>Introducing Yere Playwright </p><p> Martin McDonagh, a modern Anglo-Irish playwright, has yet to earn his spot in the canon </p><p>of English literature, but he may be well on his way. He was born in 1970 in the city of London, </p><p>England to Irish expatriates. He has published six plays, four of which have been nominated for </p><p>the Best Play category of the Tony Awards. Another play of his will be published in 2009. He </p><p>has written and directed the short film Six Shooter, which won an Academy Award in 2006, and </p><p>the 2008 film In Bruges. He also has written several radio plays, two of which are award-</p><p>winning. Most importantly, McDonagh received several Obie Awards, Drama Desk awards, the </p><p>Critics Circle Theatre Award for the Most Promising Playwright in 1996, and the Best New Play </p><p>award from the Laurence Olivier Awards for The Pillowman in 2004 (Internet Movie Database, </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1681</p></li><li><p>2008). Additionally, he has held the honor of being a resident playwright for the Royal National </p><p>Theatre in London (Casey, 2008). </p><p> McDonagh is seen as being instrumental in the development of the In Your Face </p><p>genreplays containing controversial and confrontational materialof theatre; therefore, it is </p><p>not surprising that his 2001 piece, Lieutenant of Inishmore, which I have chosen to analyze, took </p><p>five years to appear on a London stage. Trevor Nunn, a prominent artistic director, and his peers </p><p>feared that staging it could possibly be inflammatory and disrupt the Northern Ireland peace </p><p>process (Internet Movie Database, 2008). The controversial terrorist characters mixed with the </p><p>bloody, absurd plot seemed to be too much for the stage upon first glance. In spite of the </p><p>hesitation around staging Inishmore, the play opened to strong reviews, declaring the play as a </p><p>magnificent comic construction, energetic and hugely entertaining (Harkin, 2002), claiming </p><p>McDonagh's play is a hugely enjoyable black satire on the mindset that has led to cycles of </p><p>violence and generations of misery in Ireland (Garner, 2002), and that the work is an </p><p>audacious triumph for the Anglo-Irish playwright (Rooney, 2006). Critics lauded McDonaghs </p><p>black comedy, and noted its use of satire, thereby proving that there was more than blood and </p><p>laughs to his work. The work has a depth and richness all of its own. </p><p>A Nice Sliceen of Plot </p><p>The plot of Lieutenant of Inishmore centers on Padraic and his best friend for fifteen </p><p>years, Wee Thomasa cat. After receiving a phone call, while torturing a drug pusher, Padraic </p><p>is informed that Wee Thomas is poorly and has been off his food from his father, Donny </p><p>(McDonagh, 2003, p. 16). Therefore, Padraic decides to return to his home on the island of </p><p>Inishmore. Unfortunately for Donny and his young friend Davey, Wee Thomas is dead and their </p><p>subsequent lie about the cat does not stall Padraic from visiting home like they had hoped. </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1682</p></li><li><p>Fearing for their lives, they form a scheme to trick Padraic. Daveys sister, Mairead, has an </p><p>orange cat that they attempt to dye black with shoe polish, thinking this will be enough to trick </p><p>Padraic. </p><p>Meanwhile, four men, who actually killed Wee Thomas, from Northern Ireland are </p><p>stalking about the island of Inishmore waiting for Padraic to return. Nevertheless, Padraic returns </p><p>to Inishmore and is not fooled by the replacement for his cat; so, he kills it. Demanding answers </p><p>about where Wee Thomas is, Padraic ties up Davey and Donny with the intentions of executing </p><p>them. However, the Northern Irishmen tie Padraic up and drag him off stage for his own </p><p>execution, stalling him from executing Davey and Donny. Mairead, with her rifle and at a </p><p>distance of sixty yards, blinds the four men. These six characters return on stage, and Padraic </p><p>kills the blinded men one by one. However, the leader of the Northern Irishmen, Christy, admits </p><p>to having killed Wee Thomas, so Padraic tortures him before executing him. </p><p>As Davey and Donny are cutting up the bodies of the four dead men on stage, Padraic </p><p>and Mairead prepare to go to Ulster, where they plan to perform terrorist attacks. Padraic admits </p><p>to Mairead that he himself had to kill a cat earlier that day because it was unhygienic </p><p>(McDonagh, 2003, p. 49). Padraic asks Mairead to clean her bloody dress before they leave, and </p><p>she does. Yet, she happens to find the body of her catthe very cat that Padraic killeddead in </p><p>the bathroom. Displeased with Padraic, she kills him and orders Davey and Donny to chop up his </p><p>body too. After she makes her final exit, Wee Thomas, alive and well, appears on stage. It does </p><p>not take Davey and Donny long to realize that some poor cat, which was thought to be Wee </p><p>Thomas, was killed and that all the bloodshed that the audience witnessed was in vain. Absurd </p><p>and humorous throughout, the play obviously satirizes the mentality of the Northern Irish </p><p>terrorist cells while possibly disgusting audience members with brutality and gore. </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1683</p></li><li><p>Introducing Linguistics &amp; Stylistics into the Fray </p><p>Setting the Stage </p><p> H. P. Grice (1975) in Logic and conversation gave linguistic and stylistic researchers a </p><p>priceless commodity for describing dramatic texts. He introduced the ideas of conventional and </p><p>conversational implicature; however, the idea of the cooperative principle, a part of the </p><p>conversational implicature, is the most valuable asset of this article. He states mak[ing] your </p><p>conversational contribution such as required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted </p><p>purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged is the cooperative principle </p><p>(Grice, 1975, p. 45). Grice (1975) then distinguishes four categories that make up the cooperative </p><p>principle: </p><p>Table 1 </p><p>Grices Qualities and Maxims </p><p>Category Maxims </p><p>Quantityrelates to the quantity of information to be provided. </p><p>1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange). </p><p>2. Do not make you contribution more informative than is required. </p><p>Qualitytry to make your contribution one that is true. </p><p>1. Do not say what you believe to be false.2. Do not say that for which you lack </p><p>adequate evidence. Relationallow for the fact that subjects are legitimately changed. 1. Be relevant </p><p>Mannerrelating not to what is said but, rather, to HOW what is said is to be said. </p><p>1. Be perspicuous. 2. Avoid ambiguity. 3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity). 4. Be orderly. </p><p>Note. From Logic and Conversation by H.P. Grice, 1975, Speech Acts, p. 45-46. Adapted by the author. </p><p>These categories and maxims help people to understand how people should converse. Obviously, </p><p>if one needs help repairing an automobile, following the maxims for quantity that person would </p><p>expect to know only what was required, not more and not less. Therefore, if he needs four </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1684</p></li><li><p>screws, he would expect to receive four screws, not three and not five. Following the maxims of </p><p>quality, if one bakes a cake and is in need of sugar she would expect to receive sugar, not salt. </p><p>Additionally, she would not expect to receive a novelty rubber spoon if they need a spoon. </p><p>Staying relevant, when making a cake one should not expect to be handed a book he should read </p><p>or be given information that he would not need until later; for example, being handed a cloth pot </p><p>holder while mixing the cake batter. Lastly, regarding manner, one would expect the person who </p><p>she is conversing with to make their contribution to the conversation clear without belaboring </p><p>their ideas (Grice, 1975, p. 47). Therefore, to follow manner, if only a simple yes or no is </p><p>required, one should not make their choice and then defend it unnecessarily to the person or </p><p>people he is conversing with. </p><p> Short (1989), explains that with Grices maxims, literary criticism and linguistic analyses </p><p>of plays could produce suggestions for performance and that novel interpretations of plays in </p><p>performance could be supported or refuted by checking the performance with the text (141). </p><p>Additionally, Cooper (1998) supports this claim by states that analysis of the conversational </p><p>behaviour of characters serves as a foundation on which to build interpretations (p. 54). In </p><p>other words, linguistic analyses can help produce novel interpretations or explain the validity of </p><p>a novel interpretation. Of course, this all relates to Grices maxims, because how a line is </p><p>delivered on stage will either be supported by or refuted by the maxims. Short qualifies his </p><p>arguments by giving examples of new and old plays alike. </p><p>Yet, Short (1989) emphasizes that maxims are not, however, as strongly regulative as </p><p>grammatical rules, and are therefore broken quite often (p. 151). He further explains that this </p><p>flouting of maxims can be used in order to gain control of conversation (Short, 1989, p. 153). </p><p>Cooper (1998) explains, we rarely fail to observe maxims casually (p. 57). This is to say that </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1685</p></li><li><p>we flout maxims for a specific reason; thus, lending more credibility to the idea that flouting </p><p>maxims can be used to gain control of a conversation. Cooper (1998) even says that when we </p><p>flout maxims we encourage our hearers to infer something about the reasons for our behaviour, </p><p>something about our knowledge or beliefs (p. 57). So, when we flout maxims we force others to </p><p>acknowledge and recognize our characteristics and possibly our intentions. Therefore, Grice </p><p>(1975) laid the foundation by explaining what the maxims of conversation are, but Short (1989) </p><p>and Cooper (1998) expounded upon the idea that not followingor floutingmaxims, </p><p>especially in dramatic dialogues, can be seen as a way to gain control of conversations and force </p><p>others to be aware of our desires, beliefs, and mannerisms. </p><p>Not only does flouting maxims give one power in conversation, but Bennison (1998) </p><p>asserts that turn-length and interruptions can be telling of who has power in the conversation (pp. </p><p>70, 75). Bennison (1998) explains that whomever speaks morethe most words per turncan </p><p>be seen as having power (p. 70). Therefore, power can arise from the ability to speak more than </p><p>those you converse with. Halmari (1999) supports this idea by stating the fact that a person </p><p>speaks more seems to be a feature connected with relative power (p. 41). When the cooperative </p><p>principle is applied to these situations power is deferred to the person who speaks the most for </p><p>any number of reasons. In Bennison (1998) one character is the subordinate of another and in </p><p>Halmari (1999) the power relationship is that of a patriarch to his family. Therefore, the speaker </p><p>is allowed to have power because of the rules of society. Additionally, Bennison (1998) explains </p><p>that characters that interrupt others indicate power and confidence in their speech (p. 75). Yet </p><p>again, Halmari (1999) supports this by stating a person may gain power merely by speaking </p><p>self-confidently (p. 41). Not only can societys rules dictate who has power in conversations, </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1686</p></li><li><p>but an assertive personality can cause others to suspend their own power and give it to another in </p><p>conversation. </p><p>Finally, the use of interrogatives and metastatement also provide one access to </p><p>controlling a conversation. Interrogatives are a form of questioning, and Carter, Goddard, Reah, </p><p>Sanger, &amp; Bowring (2001) state, question sentences ask the reader to look for information (p. </p><p>215). Therefore, it is not much of a leap to expect that a verbal question would ask the other </p><p>participant(s) in the conversation to look for and provide information. Simply put, if one is </p><p>causing another to do something, they have a power. Likewise, Simpson (2004) explains that </p><p>metastatementlanguage about languagecan be used to gain control of the floor (p. 88). In </p><p>other words, if someone begins their turn by stating, I want to tell you something or May I </p><p>say something they are asking for permission to hold the floor. If granted this permission, they </p><p>have successfully taken control of the conversation. Both of these instances are causing one to </p><p>gain control over another, thereby instilling power into one participant of the conversation. </p><p>Martin McDonaghs character Padraic in Lieutenant of Inishmore, flouts maxims </p><p>consistently and frequently. Additionally, he asserts power by being a lieutenant in a Northern </p><p>Irish terrorist splinter group. On top of flouting maxims, the audience is presented with a self-</p><p>assure, confident character. Padraic maintains power in conversations in all the ways previously </p><p>described. His turns tend to be longer than those he converses with. Additionally, he consistently </p><p>flouts maxims under the categories of quantity by saying more than what is required, relation by </p><p>forcing others to change topic at his whim, and manner by interrupting others, being vague, and </p><p>even rambling at times. I even argue that he breaks the maxim of quality once as well, by stating </p><p>something I feel he believes to be false. With the assembled research, it becomes abundantly </p><p>2009 HICAH Proceedings Page 1687</p></li><li><p>clear how a combination of the ideas can easily help one begin to characterize a member of the </p><p>dramatis personae of any given play. </p><p>Applying the Foundation </p><p>Throughout McDonaghs Lieutenant of Inishmore, Padraic, himself, is seen as being </p><p>extremely off-kilter and more than a kook. In fact, Davey, in the first scene of the play, describes </p><p>Padraic as being mad enough for seven people, and then asks Donny, Dont they call him </p><p>mad Padraic and Isnt it him the IRA wouldnt let in because he was too mad (McDonagh, </p><p>2003, p. 10). The first element...</p></li></ul>