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Brendan Kennelly for Leaving Cert English: Begin

"Begin" by Brendan KennellyYou may also like: 2019 Guide to Leaving Cert English. Full notes on Brendan Kennelly will be made available to everyone who has the 2019 guide, free of charge, as soon as they are ready.

Summary: a philosophical reflection on starting something new again and again communicated through the description of a morning walk across the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Style features:
anaphora (1) (highlighted in bold) adds a sense of determination as does the repetition of the word “begin” throughout the poemenjambment highlights the never ending need to begin again imperative tone, “begin again” is an encouraging command to never give up alliteration e.g. “dying in dark / determination” enhances the imageryreference to familiar places, “Pembroke Road” near the Aviva Stadium in Dublin 4, make the poem more accessibleimagery appeals to multiple senses: “summoning birds”, “sight of the light”, “roar of morning traffic”, “crying birds in the sudden rain”, “branches…

Cultural Context 1984, I’m Not Scared, A Doll's House #625Lab


The cultural context is the world or society of a text; it is the framework of any story which conditions the characters into who they are, and what choices they make. Undoubtedly, the cultural context has a significant impact on the characters of all three of the texts that I have studied, which include “1984” by George Orwell, “I’m Not Scared” by Gabriele Salvatores, and “A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen. 

Cultural Context 1984, I’m Not Scared, A Doll's House

You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€)

Without a doubt, the impact of education has a strong presence in all three texts. (Education is a refreshing take on cultural context. Have a think if it's a feasible thing to compare across your three texts.) In “1984” we see that the only form of education present in Oceania is indoctrination. Winston Smith, the protagonist of “1984”, works for the Ministry of Truth which functions to alter historical documents to suit the Party’s agenda. As a result, the historical timeline is blurred and the Party flourishes. The indoctrination of the population becomes evident in the key moment where Winston and Syme have a discussion on the topic of Newspeak – the new language introduced by the Party. (It's a little too close to retelling the story.) Syme explains how his district are planning to destroy certain concepts by the elimination of words from the vernacular. Syme goes on to illustrate how even the Party’s slogan “Freedom is slavery” will be meaningless soon as the concept of freedom will have been forgotten. This degeneration of articulation will deter the people of Oceania from dealing with complex concepts, and they will regress to a primitive state that will allow Big Brother to prosper. In a similar sense, education has the same nature in "I’m Not Scared"; it is extremely limited. Although, the lack of education in "I’m Not Scared" is sourced from the regions poverty while in “1984” it is a deliberate effort by the Party to control the thoughts of its people. The elements of education and social class that characterise "I’m Not Scared" create a vicious cycle which ensure the other: the youth of Southern Italy cannot find employment without a formal education, which is scarce in the remote areas and social unrest occurs as a response to the impenetrable barrier between these social classes. The importance of education is further accentuated in “A Doll’s House”. Nora’s lack of education, in a similar nature to “1984”, creates a reliance on the authoritative figures in her life (Torvald and her father). Torvald’s intellectual superiority consistently undermines Nora with belittling nicknames such as “my pretty little pet” and “my little squirrel.” It is equally noticeable in all three texts that poor education functions as a limiting force on society. Winston is isolated from the brainwashed majority who overzealously consume the Party’s propaganda, Michele fails to understand the social unrest which surrounds him and therefore his father’s motives for kidnapping Filippo, and Nora is confined to domestic tasks and is disillusioned with a happy life. 

Additionally, another important feature of each text that has a profound influence on the characters is their social class. In “1984”, Winston’s social class, the Outer Party, functions as the middle class of society. The importance of this is that the middle class are viewed as being the most likely to rebel against the higher classes (the Inner Party) due to their intellectual ability and limited power. As a consequence, the Outer Party are specifically scrutinised by telescreens and the Thought Police. This hyper-surveillance confines the majority of Winston’s thoughts to linger in his mind and only few are adorned with human consultation during his discussions with Julia. The living conditions for Winston’s social class are incredibly poorer than the Inner Party’s, which is revealed in Winston’s visit to O’Brien’s house in chapter 8. Likewise, in "I’m Not Scared", we see a sharp divide between the higher classes in the North and the lower classes in the impoverished south. This is manifested in the key moment when Filippo’s mother makes an announcement on the News. She is well-dressed and polished, unlike Anna (Michele’s mother) who is in run-down shabby clothes dampened by sweat and dirt. Michele’s father, Pino, is aware of this unfair divide in the country’s wealth and uses the unfairness in social classes to justify his immoral actions. The kidnapping of Filippo, in Pino’s mind, is his way of getting the money that he feels entitled to. The profound consequences of social class are also present in “A Doll’s House”. The Helmer family belong to the upper class of society. Torvald, being the newly-appointed bank manager, is governed by his spotless reputation and so Nora must coincide fit with this prestigious image. Consequentially, Nora is forced to withdraw her true emotions and portray the happy family that is expected from the Helmers. Unfortunately, Nora becomes disengaged from reality and her illusion of a perfect life shatters when subjected to the consequences of her past. This is captured in the key moment when Dr. Rank asks Nora: “have you any notion of what society really is?”

The role of authority is another equally fundamental component of all three texts. The underlying plot of “1984” is Winston’s battle against the Party, who he comes to realise is controlling every aspect of his life. The motives of the Party are revealed in a discussion between Winston and O’Brien in chapter 20, when O’Brien states: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.” This desire for unlimited power by the Party accounts for the perpetual surveillance, brainwashing and endless fallacies that characterise the novel. Evidently, the authoritative figures of “1984” will go to desperate measures to achieve these objectives. Quite the reverse is seen in "I’m Not Scared", where the underlying motive for Filippo’s kidnapping is the desire for wealth. However, the authorities in both texts do share the same desire to extend their influence, and this brings out the worst of them. Pino is aware of this and gives his son a preliminary warning when he tells Michele: “Monsters don’t exist. It’s men you should be afraid of, not monsters.” The role of authority operates on a domestic scale in “A Doll’s House”. Torvald’s dictatorship over Nora is the pressing issue of the play, and at the start we see Nora’s complete obedience: “I wouldn’t dream of going against your wishes.” This is reminiscent of Winston’s loyalty to the Party at the beginning of the novel. As a result, Nora’s obedience collapses at the climax of the play when she finally addresses the reality of her relationship with Torvald. She comes to the realisation that she has spent her life being loved not for who she is but for the role she plays. The entire play is summarised in Nora’s argument with Torvald when she claims: “Our home has been nothing but a playroom. I have been your doll-wife.” (This paragraph is an interesting fusion of various things that give people power: politics, money and gender. I would be more transparent and mention that I am uniting these three things into one - and there is some overlap with the previous paragraph, but it's a different angle.)

In conclusion, it is clear that the central characters of each text undergo entirely different journeys of individuality: Winston seeks a life of freedom, Michele seeks justice for Filippo, and Nora seeks independence from her husband. Although these journeys are unique from each other, they are all similarly hampered by the conditions of the world that they live in. Winston lives in a brainwashed society, Michele’s village is dominated by poverty, and Nora finds herself governed by society. These conditions of education, social class, and authority that configure each text are so deeply embedded in them that is seems unlikely that they will ever change, and it is this mixture of conflicts with their world faced by protagonists that characterise each text individually.

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