How does Alan Bennett mix comedy and tragedy
How does Alan Bennett mix comedy and tragedy

How does Alan Bennett mix comedy and tragedy

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  • Published: October 7, 2017
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Alan Bennett mixes comedy and tragedy in the two monologues ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ and ‘Her Big Chance’. In ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ the characters tend to be afflicted by tragic circumstances, broken up by humorous anecdotes that engage the audience’s interest and ‘lighten up’ the play. In ‘Her Big Chance’ there is a comical outer surface which, when considered, actually contains a very tragic undertone.

This tragedy isn’t openly stated. To see how Alan Bennett mixes comedy and tragedy, the use of the dramatic monologue, dramatic devices, setting, plot, characterisation and language must first be analysed.Before discussing further points, what a dramatic monologue is must first be discussed. Dramatic monologues are plays, which consist of one person speaking. The dramatic monologues are broken into sections, these transitions often adding to the tragedy, but not the comedy.

In these monologues, certain points like Graham’s mental illness, and Lesley’s poor acting are gradually revealed; they are never openly stated, however obvious the may become. One example of this gradual revelation is when Graham invites Mr Turnbull’s daughter in: ‘I said, ‘You’d better come in. Go to black’.The pause (‘Go to black. ‘) is what implies that a conversation has occurred. The ensuing dialogue is implied when Graham tells Vera what happened.

The nature of the conversation becomes progressively apparent, causing tension to build. This adds to the tragedy of the situation, although it is only tragedy for Vera; Graham is probably pleased with this. The narrative in th


ese monologues is linear, following the actions of the speaking character. Owing to this, the other characters’ points of view and actions are revealed via the speaking character.

For this reason, they may be distorted as the speaking character may be biased. The audience’s imagination is required to give certain effects. One example of this is the image of Lesley writing a postcard for people who couldn’t care less about her, a tragic image; the audience feels sorry for her committing such a futile act without realising the crew don’t actually like her. There are no actions in these monologues, thus various activities are given via descriptions or anecdotes. Anecdotes can also help to add to the comedy.On example of this is when Graham is talking about someone exposing himself in Sainsbury’s: ‘As Mother said, ‘Tesco, you could understand it! ” This adds bathos, as the rest of the conversation is reasonably serious.

It is encouraging the audience to laugh at Vera. This shows observational comedy, as Tesco was seen as a down-market shop when ‘A Chip in the Sugar’ was written, so this allows the audience to relate to the comedy. It also adds to the characterisation of Vera, as the audience can imagine what she is like, to think it understandable for anyone to expose themselves in Tesco.Dramatic devices can enhance such effects, both tragic and comic. Dramatic devices are used by Alan Bennett to amplify points of comedy and tragedy alike. He mainly uses dramatic devices to emphasise tragedy, in the form of pauses and scene changes.

These pauses and scene changes are particularly useful as they encourage the audience

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to reflect on the meanings of recent events. This causes the audience to think deeper, and realise the tragic implications of what has just been said. The fact that the tragedy is almost created in the audience’s mind means that the tragedy comes across far stronger.Dramatic pauses such as these are evident in ‘A Chip in the Sugar’: “I thought all that chapter was closed. ‘ Go to black.

‘ This shows passage of time within the monologue, which moves the story on. The quote also suggests that Graham may have a mental illness, but does not openly declare it. The pause allows the audience to consider the tragedy, thus accentuating the tragedy of the fact. In ‘Her Big Chance’, the tragedy is similarly clear, but again not stated: “Then I saw the cat sitting there, watching the trout. ‘ Go to black. The pause adds dramatic effect, and moves the story along.

The repetition of the idea of Lesley’s promiscuous behaviour also adds to the tragic nature of the line. The tragedy is yet again not openly mentioned, but is made quite clear; the audience is aware of the fact that Kenny has a cat and a trout, and the fact that she’s woken up to the sight of them both shows that she must have slept with Kenny. There is another example, in ‘Her Big Chance’, where tragedy is only implied: “..

. showing her contempt for his way of life… elbow the bikini bottom! ‘ Pause.In this quote, there is a prime example of bathos, used in both plays; the sophisticated language is followed by a complete transition in style to the far more colloquial ‘elbow the bikini bottom’, creating a humorous effect.

This contrast in language also shows that Nigel was speaking falsely, and out of character, to engage Lesley’s interest. While at first her gullibility and naivety seem funny, the pause creates tragedy as it encourages the audience to consider the tragic implications, of the way she is being taken advantage of. This is one of the methods Alan Bennett uses to create tragedy and comedy.In setting the scene however, he uses predominantly tragedy. The settings of both these plays both tend to be dull and are far more tragic than they are comical. They are never cheerful, as shown by adjectives such as ‘small’ and ‘bleak’ used to describe the characters’ rooms.

This gives the idea that their lives are boring, or restricted. One example of this is in the opening of ‘A Chip in the Sugar’: ‘Graham is a mild, middle aged man…

small room… single bed…

nothing much else. ‘ This is the first time Graham is described, and gives quite a tragic impression of him.While his room could imply he is a fun-loving bachelor who spends most of his time out of the house, the fact that he is a ‘mild, middle-aged man’ overrules this possibility. The room description implies a lonely, empty life signified by the lonely, empty room. It raises the idea that his life is barren and very limited.

In ‘Her Big Chance’ there is a much less descriptive initial

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