Cultural Context - I'm Not Scared, Foster, The Plough and The Stars for Leaving Cert English

“The cultural context can have a significant influence on the behaviour of the central character/characters in a text. 

Compare the way in which the behaviour of the central characters in at least two of your texts is influenced by the cultural context of those texts. 

Great essay on gender, religion and money. Plain and clear - and thus en route to a H1. Some polish required though: make sure you figure out the apostrophes. The Kinsellas are John and Edna Kinsella. The Kinsella's house is John or Edna Kinsella's house. The Kinsellas' house is John and Edna Kinsella's house. I would also throw in a few simple quotes for good measure.


You may also like: 

The cultural context refers to the world in which a text is set, where the action occurs. However, it is much more than just the geographical location. It deals with society, their attitudes, beliefs, traditions and customs. Of course, as a result, this affects the actions of the main characters. (It's better to omit the "of course" and "obviously" unless it is part of your own argument. Otherwise, it sounds condescending in an awkward kind of way.) I felt that in my three texts, Claire Keegan’s novella, “Foster”, the Italian crime mystery thriller film “I’m Not Scared”, directed by Gabriele Salvatores and Seán O’Casey’s play “The Plough and the Stars”, the cultural context has an obvious impact on the characters.

Of all the features of cultural context, the clear differentiation of gender roles in each text has a major impact on all characters. In “I’m Not Scared”, women are confined to a domestic setting and do not play a dominant role in the film. This portrayal of traditional gender roles is also mirrored in “The Plough and the Stars” where we see that the women in the play have no role in the rebellion. Instead, they are left at home to take care of the children the house. Both of these texts also reveal that the women do not have any influence in the decision making. In "I'm Not Scared" Ana’s sole purpose to the men in her kitchen is to provide them with refreshments. She is not consulted regarding the tactics of the kidnapping. In much the same way, Jack does not ask Nora for her opinion in relation to his decision to go fight in the rebellion.

Unlike these two texts, in “Foster”, the Kinsellas' marriage seems to be one of equality. The couple are in stark contrast to not only the relationships in “I’m Not Scared”, and “The Plough and the Stars”, but also the setting around them which still very much portrays women in the stereotypical, traditional role. It is obvious that the people around them are not used to this. This is apparent when the girl’s father is shocked when he sees that John Kinsella is helping with the dinner preparations. In his household, it seems as if he frequently is not present for dinner as he goes to the pub for a “liquid supper”. This behaviour has a great effect on the girl. It is her who takes over the role that her father would have if he were at home. This also deeply impacts while she adjusts to life in the Kinsellas'. There she observes that the couple can easily interchange their “traditional” gender roles, John helping in the kitchen and Edna working on the farm when she is needed. This would never be seen in the girl's own home. (This is all true, but you omit one important factor. Edna Kinsella doesn't have children. Would it have been the same if she did? We can't be quite certain. For the sake of intellectual honesty, you have to admit that you're not comparing like with like.)

Another aspect which has a clear effect on the central characters of my texts is the significance of religion. In all three texts the characters belong to the Catholic faith. Be that as it may, their faith is shown in various degrees. In “Foster” and “The Plough and the Stars” religion plays a largely an important part in the lives of the Kinsellas and the inhabitants of the tenements in Dublin. We can see how important mass is in the Kinsella household. John and Edna go to the town to make sure the girl has a proper outfit for her Sunday morning outing. It also is evident that the people in the 1980s strictly followed the teachings of the Catholic church and in turn families were larger as we see in the girl’s own family. The backdrop of “The Plough and the Stars” is the 1916 Easter Rising. This was a war fought between the Catholic nationalists and the Protestant Unionists. Undoubtedly, religion plays a huge part in all the characters lives: it is after all the reason for all the unrest and for Nora the reason her beloved husband is out fighting on the streets instead of being at home with his pregnant wife.

Conversely, in “I’m Not Scared”, religion doesn’t seem to hold an extremely important part in the lives of the habitants of Acqua-Traverse. Although there are various crucifixes and statues, we do not see the people practising (this is a frequent mistake. Practice is a noun. Practise is a verb.) their faith or abiding to any Catholic beliefs. The kidnapping of Filippo is a clear contradiction of Catholic morals. Comparing “I’m Not Scared” to “Foster” and “The Plough and the Stars”, it is evident that the church doesn’t have any influence over the characters.

Perhaps the most influential element of cultural context on the central characters is the money or lack thereof. In all three of the texts that I studied none of the characters are very wealthy. The Kinsellas being one slight exception. Money is the root of all evil in the world of “I’m Not Scared” (more like lack of money is the root of all evil). We can see how this village has been abandoned and forgotten. Their only glimpse into the world outside their small village is the van that comes every so often with new shoes. It is cause for great excitement in Acqua-Traverse. The great poverty in this village in Southern Italy is what causes the men to kidnap Filippo who is the son of a rich family from Milan. This poverty is mirrored in “The Plough and the Stars”, where it is considered the norm. The theme of poverty dominates the play from the setting in the destitute tenements to Bessie’s desperate looting. The poverty also has a clear effect on the characters' mental and physical well-being. As a result of the poverty that they are faced with, Mollser, Nora and her baby all end up dead. This tragedy is a direct result of the hardship in Dublin during The Rising.

Claire Keegan portrays both wealth and poverty in her novella. We can see the difficulty that the girl’s family is faced with and how the financial comfort that the Kinsellas have makes a huge difference to their life. When the girl arrives to the Kinsellas, she is thin and dressed in a “thin cotton dress”. She has been sent to relieve her own family of the expense of feeding her. The girl is constantly readjusting to the lifestyle she is now apart of. The Kinsellas' house is in stark contrast to the “damp and cold” inside back home. Money also has many other consequences on the families. In the Kinsella household, free of financial worries, John and Edna experience life positively, whereas the girl’s family are plagued with financial worries, even more so now with another child which to them is merely another mouth to feed.

It is undeniable that cultural context affects the actions and behaviours of the central characters of the texts. By analysing the impact of the roles of men and women, wealth and poverty and religion the reader can clearly see the significance of the cultural context on nature of the characters in “I’m Not Scared”, “The Plough and the Stars” and “Foster”.

Cultural Context - I'm Not Scared, Foster, The Plough and The Stars for Leaving Cert English

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

Popular Posts