In the play [“Shirley Valentine”] feeling sympathy for Shirley is a regular occurrence, Shirley Valentine is a character who was endlessly trapped and is taken for granted, but then rediscovers herself. Shirley mourns for the lost possibilities of her ”unused life,”.
Shirley Valentine was written in the 1980s, as a kitchen sink drama, by a play writer named Willy Russell. He presents a basic ordinary woman’s working life, with unhappiness, regret, humour and at twist. This essay will be analysing the effects of the character, action; dramatic devices: languages, ideas, themes, and show how the audience is invited to sympathise with Shirley.
I find Shirley to be humorous and a gentle person, looking for an easier, comfortable, relaxed life with a hint of spice!
In the opening lyrics Russell cleverly combines words of sorrow and sympathy towards Shirley. Some of these are “Shirley Valentine just wasn’t there any more, a girl was born to fly: all her dreams, dreams are broken.” This introduction of influencing words already paints a picture in the mind about the character before she is introduced, hence triggering impressions into setting the frame of mind to a sympathetic mode.
Shirley is portrayed as a sad house bound woman, forgotten, not appreciated nonexistent (not liteary) [“anymore”] and a woman with a loss of identity.
“A girl is born to fly;” This is shown as a metaphor, as she is supposed to be free but is trapped.
The lyrics in the film prepare and give us many clues to what the film is going to be about and how the character is. The sounds we have are beautifully sung but with a twist, as it is infused with the characters sorrows and boring lifestyle. Again it shows us how people feel towards her, what she thinks of herself and what she thinks, other people feel about her, “Shirley Valentine just wasn’t there any more, a girl was born to fly: all her dreams, dreams are broken”. The connotations shown in these lyrics are that, nobody appreciates her, “just wasn’t there anymore”, another meaning of this is that she has changed, disappeared, dreams have been crushed and personality change.
The author uses conventions, for dramatic effects as the uses of colours influences how we are supposed to feel. Blue, is used throughout these sketches, and verifies, sadness, repetitive and dullness. Another convention used is the way the film is put together, the sketches fade into real life, establishing the fact that what was shown, in the overall boring and dull life, in these sketches are in fact a real woman’s life, inviting us to sympathise for that certain character, who’s life is revealed to us.
The pictures shown to the audience are in fact sketches of the character in domestic life, cleaning, cooking and mostly doing household chores in these sketches, plus the fact that she has a face always turned away shows us a sign of what I think is shame and that it is not what she wanted in her life to be like.
The way the author further invites the audience to sympathise with Shirley Valentine is though character and action, by cunningly using the characters to influence how we feel towards certain characters feelings or lifestyle. In Shirley Valentine, her actions are shown in a certain way, urging us to sympathise towards her.
The opening shows, Shirley talking to the wall, “Hello wall”. This prompts the reader to feel surprised and captures intrest along with questions as to why is she talking to the wall. The reader may believe the reason behind this abnormal behaviour is possibly the absents of friends, companion and most obviously because of loneliness. The author empathises that Shirley is lonely and how she tries to pass her time.
Shirley’s character also adds her own sarcasm “There’s a woman three doors down – talks to her microwave” in this quote Shirley is trying to hide the fact that it is weird talking to the wall. Once more Shirley gains our sympathy because of the way she is treated, by another character or via to the way she acts. For example “what happened to her? What’s happened to Shirley Valentine? She got married-to a boy called Joe” This demonstratives how Shirley herself causes sympathy towards herself. This reveals that she has changed dramatically, together with, the person she was before is long gone. The quote also shows that the change is not wanted, and she regrets that she has changed, into a more hushed and less social person, appealing sympathy.
Character and action is also used to empathise, sympathy to the audience through, commiserate the ways the character is mistreated, welcoming us to sympathise towards this characters sorrow. “Who the bloody hell are you talkin’ to” Joe talks to Shirley in a very rude and unsatisfactory manner, encouraging us to sympathise with Shirley because of the way she is treated, plus misunderstood. Shirley may be talking to the wall for comfort. The quote further tells us that, her husband doe not understand her, and as a result of that Shirley could have started to socialise with the wall. Joe tends to abuse Shirley verbally quite often, in every day language, swearing,
“bleedin”, “shite”, which also shows us that he is of working class.
Once more, when a character is treated badly but is passive to the abuse. When Joes says “well I’m not eattin’ this”, “I am not eattin’ shite”, “and with a violent shove he pushes his plate along the length of the table. It hits Shirley’s plate and both plates and their contents tips into Shirley’s lap”, But Shirley just sits there calm and dignified. The author, Willy Russell creates an aggressive image of Joe, the image given, is that he is a hostile and spiteful man, who mistreats his wife. Moreover he is portrayed to look that way throughout the whole play, as it looks as if he always acts that way.
Russell uses a series of dramatic devices to build tension and intend effects, influencing the action of the play and the response of the characters and audience.
The dramatic devices lure the audience into numerous expressions, creating sympathy towards Shirley. “Ten days I’ve been secretly ironing and packin’! It’s been like livin’ in bleedin’ prison. Look, cooking all his meals for a fortnight. They’re all in the freezer. Me mother’s goin’ to defrost them and do all his cookin’ for him.”
This extract builds upon tension, since Joe does not know about the vacation, causing Shirley to sneak around. Another way this creates sympathy for our character, Shirley, is that she is not able to live in her house freely. Plus the way she can’t openly talk to Joe her husband. When Shirley finally gathers enough courage to tell Joe about the vacation, he gradually builds up to explosion, “Oh I get it. That’s the name of the game, is it? I’m not gettin’ fed properly, cos you’re savin’ for a foreign friggin’ holiday”, “well, I’m tellin’ you now, you can forget it. I am not goin’ to no Greece”. The twist to the tail comes as now Shirley is in a dilemma, Theses quotes show that Joe’s aggregation and the way Shirley is treated. As Shirley is restricted as, Joe expects her to listen to him, plus he implies that if he says no, she can’t go at all. Even though Shirley is a fully grown woman she still has not got the freedom, she deserves. This quote also shows us that he does not respect or cherish her, the way Joe says “Oh I get it. That’s the name of the game, is it? I’m not gettin’ fed properly, cos you’re savin’ for a foreign friggin’ holiday”. Tempting us to feel sympathy for her as, she is trapped and she not able to make her own decisions. Therefore causes a dramatic dilemma, is she going to go, or stay.
In addition the ways Willy Russell uses dramatic device to attract us the audience to sympathise with Shirley, has a huge effect, as it also involves the way the character is treated. This extract demonstrates a predicament of the way Shirley is neglected and moreover mistreated. “What will he be like, eh wall? My feller? What will he be like when he finds out he’s only gettin’ ships an’ eggs for tea?”. Here Shirley talks to the wall asking what would happen when she gives her husband egg and chips, it is almost like Shirley is afraid of what he might say, or do. This also shows that, Shirley takes in count of all Joes needs and is a typical housewife, meaning she has to cook, clean, and do the daily house choirs. This adds to the dramatic devices as Shirley is in a bad situation as she hasn’t cooked a proper meal, which in the 1980s was a very big thing.
Millandra also discovers the trip and gives her mother a hard time. “Greece! At your age! You an’ that Jane! It’s obscene” Millandra is surprised at the fact of her mother is going to a foreign country with only a friend. In the 1980s woman where not allowed to do certain things and elderly married woman certainly had restrictions on what they were allowed to do and going to a foreign country with a friend was definitely a social no, no.
Another aspect of the dramatic devices in Shirley valentine are the flashbacks, voiceovers and monolog used in the play. Flashbacks are often to forget about the present or because of loneliness, as in these quotes the author uses flashbacks to take us to the past where Shilrey tries to remember herself as she eas in her childhood. “Nay, I’m not kissin’ you like that”, Shirley and Joe are deeply in love, as they are newly married she remembers how they used to be together as a couple. It also shows them communicating, with out using aggressive and abusive language towards each other. Shirley tries to remember the good time with Joe and treasures it. She also tries to remember how they used to be together, happy and full of affection for one another. The author uses this, as an audience we feel sympathy for her as she tries to remember the good times, and the way she felt loved and wanted. The flashback mostly focuses on Shirley’s loneliness as she relies on the flashbacks, to make herself feel wanted and more involved.
Another example of how Shirley tries to forget her pain and problems she has, “Any way, they don’t sell wine”. Shirley is at the pub with her daughter, were she is told that the pub is in fact a wine bar, which only sells wine, Shirley is enjoying her short period of time with her child embracing every moment. Here Shirley is, evoking, the time when she spent, quality time with her daughter, which notifies us that, Shirley, is trying to forget her present problems and seclusion. As she suddenly jumps to a different scene, after she feels disappointed or miserable by trying to remember the times she most enjoys, it takes Shirley way form her retched, distressing and lonely every day life. Usually when people drink wine it is for socialising, whereas Shirley, drinks whilst cooking or talking to the wall. “I like a glass of wine when I’m doin’ the cookin’-(to the wall) Don’t I wall? Don’t I like a glass of wine when I’m preparing the evening meal?”.
Shirley’s flashbacks are mostly based on Shirley’s, loneliness, carving for companionship or maybe because she feels that something is missing in her, and it’s got something related to her past. Shirley misses her security, it seems like she is going into the past to the escape the present, as well as trying to told on to her happy memories. Going into the past memories and the feelings is sure sign that her present life is not what she was thinking and stimulation giving us another factor that we feel sympathy for Shirley Valentine as she is a middle aged woman trapped, stick in a route which she loathes shown in a number of sarcastic remark, one of which is ” It’s the Eleventh Commandment. Moses declared it. Thou shalt give thy feller steak every Thursday.”
The language used throughout the play is working class, for instance, Shirley quite often uses; bleedin’, drinkin’, sayin’, feller, big gob, cookin’, and many more, in her every day language. His gives evidence that Shirley is of working class language. An example of the way Shirley speaks is, “How the bleedin hell would I know then.” This is an example of when Shirley, spoke as a teenager, Shirley’s language suggests that she was in fact working class, as Shirley hasn’t recently come across this type of language style, but in fact was familiar with it long before. Simple everyday language such as; Drinkin’ Sayin’ and presently, is said differently by Shirley. Showing us how the character is, “feller”, which is considered lower-class. Shirley’s language is predominantly, common, whereas others around her, for example Gullian, uses more complex and sophisticated language. This draws apon kitchen sink drama, as mostly it is set on an average working class person, who has many problems. One sequence explains that Jane became a feminist after she found her husband in bed with the milkman. “all men are potential rapists without any hesitation. Jane uses very strong and firm language, to express her feels. I wouldn’t describe Shirley as a feminist, but a liberated person after her fling she rediscovers herself.
In conclusion the writer invites us the reader to sympathise with Shirley Valentine by, creating a strong and powerful image of her in pain, shown in the character in action and dramatic devices. Russell uses places we think is worth our sympathy as he concentrates on certain areas and makes it a much bigger deal. The author uses the scene he believes most interests us, to his advantage to invite us to sympathise with Shirley. As well as highlighting the areas for us, in an obvious but effective way.
We tend to sympathise with a Shirley when sadness is expressed, with lonelyness