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In Willy Russell’s 1989 screenplay, ‘Shirley Valentine’ we examine the life of a middle-aged liverpudlian housewife and her she struggles with her monotonous life. From the start of Secondary School till now, her life was in a fiasco. No one listened to her and she grew up in what she became, a lonely, and disconsolate, low class person that no one seemed to care about. This sympathisation with Shirley and the audience is revealed in many ways, through the use of a variety of dramatic techniques; flashbacks for example, reveal her past, on how she had the most mundane and dull life, this encourages us to sympathise with her. She then finds herself to have tickets to Greece with her friend, still trying to find out who she really is. After an affair and few happy moments she had finally fulfilled her life. She has found her inner self; she is in love with the idea of living.

The central message that is being examined through the character of Shirley is that to find out who she really is, to find that inner person stuck inside her; the Shirley Valentine years when she was a teenager and a rebel. This whole story is linked to Russell’s past. Russell was born in Whiston; Liverpool in 1947.The story is also based in Liverpool where Shirley lives. His family were working class just like Shirley was. He also grew up in a very maternalistic atmosphere, and so he learnt the about how women view the world. This is why the protagonist of this screenplay is a woman. This story portrays the writers life in a more different and entertaining way. He also makes you remember who we are and to always be yourself.

The writer, Russell makes use of language, to encourage us to with the protagonist of this story, Shirley. He uses a range of devices such as emotive language, use of 3rd person, rhetorical questions and humour (sometimes self deprecating). An example of one of these devices is when Shirley talks about herself, “what happened to her? What’s happened to Shirley valentine?” Shirley speaks about herself in 3rd person illustrating that she talks about herself as if she (Shirley Valentine) were another person and how she has fragmented and lost her identity; she no longer knows who she is. Another language device Russell uses in his novel is past tense, he uses this to make us sympathise with Shirley because she’s always looking back instead of thinking of the future. An example of past tense being used is when Shirley is remembering one of her flashbacks, “And there I was”.

This quote indicates that she used to be happy, she is now remembering how she used to be happy but never thinks ahead. I think that Russell used this quote to show us that she did have dreams and had the ability to achieve them. But I just didn’t work out. Russell may of used this as a metaphor for himself maybe he did not want to become a hairdresser or a novelist. Russell also uses rhetorical questions, for example when she says something ‘to the wall’, “Don’t I wall? Don’t I like a glass of wine when preparing the evening meal?” the quote explains how Shirley has no-one to talk to and that she’s gone so low that she’s talking to a wall, this also illustrates how lonely she is and have a routine , boring housewife life.

The novelist, Willy Russell, uses many characters in the narrative, Shirley valentine in order to make us sympathise for Shirley. He uses the characters in many different ways to give an impression of how people are treating Shirley. For example one of the main characters of the story Milandra, her daughter. Milandra treats her mother Shirley with a lack of respect, she expects her mother to do all the work for her. Just like a slave. A quote that proves this is when Milandra enters the house, “Mother, can you get the TV for me, playschool is coming on in a minute.” “Could you get me some sugar” This symbolizes the lack of appreciation Milandra has for her own mother. This scene makes us feel bad about Shirley because her own daughter who raised her up what she is like now is ordering her around like a slave.

Another character who is really important in the story is Shirley’s husband, Joe. Joe used to be a really adventurous and playful person. Joe is key of understanding of how Shirley feels because he has lost his sense of fun during his marriage. Joe treats Shirley like a slave and overreacts when ever anything goes wrong. He expects her to be obedient to him. He expects his dinner at a precise time on a particular day. He gets furious whenever he doesn’t get what he wants. “I get my tea at 6” and then impatient asks “what going on?” this quote indicates that Joe is parochial (always sticks to the schedule no matter what) and impatient.

The writer is trying to get a message across to the reader that Joe expects Shirley to do certain things for him because he’s married to her. Shirley attempts to fight back Joe after he says that he doesn’t want the egg and chips on a Wednesday, he torments her with an angry rage and pushes the eggs and chips onto Shirley’s lap, as this quote explains, “With a violent shove Joe pushes the food onto Shirley’s lap.” This quote explains that Joe has shown his feelings directed to Shirley in a different way. We sympathise with Shirley for reason that she has only done her job to cook food and do all the chores in the house

The writer, Willy Russell aims to make us sympathise for Shirley and other working class people in Shirley’s position e.g. (the writer himself trying to tell us ho hard life in working class is) is by using dramatic devices. The author uses many dramatic devices such as Flashbacks, Voice Over’s (VO), Dramatic Monologue, Pathetic Fallacy and Music. These devices allow the reader to learn more about the protagonist of this story, Shirley. Russell makes use of a key dramatic device which is flashbacks. As Shirley evokes, flashbacks are used to show events from her past. One of the most earliest and main flashbacks Russell uses to attempt and make us sympathise for Shirley is when she is in her high-school days.

In this flashback, we see how Shirley was being treated in the past. For example, the head-mistress says to Shirley while she tries to answer her question “oh do put your hand down Shirley you could not possibly know the answer”. This quotation illustrates the infringement of Shirley’s school life of being neglected and reclused by people who have no idea what she really is like and has an ambition in life.

This occurrence was because of the way society looked at hers as she is from working class background it means she not only knows nothing is that she doesn’t want to also that she cannot achieve anything and will always misbehave. I can establish this because Marjory Majors who took elocution lessons (which means how to learn, behave and talk in a well-mannered way, speaking highly) was being glorified and obviously put in a higher class as Shirley as she is supposed to know a lot as she is ‘intelligent’. She was overestimated so much that when she got the answer wrong to the question “What was man’s greatest invention?” when Marjorie answered to the question “The Internal Combustion Engine, miss”, without hesitation you could tell the from the expression on the head-mistress’s face that she was discontented.

On the other hand because of Shirley’s low-class expectations, when she answered the question correctly the expression of the head-mistress’s face was full of astonishment and irritation that someone in working class could get an answer right as this quotation illustrates, “somebody must have told you!” the young Shirley shouts back “well how the bleedin’ hell else could I learn it!”, “Be quiet!” the headmistress replies ,”But, Miss, it’s not fair!” , “Miss Lloyd – the hymn!” the head orders. This shows that Shirley knows the answer but is suffering from neglectance from the Head-Mistress.

Russell also includes the device called voice-over (VO for short). The writer uses this device because he wants to give us an insight into Shirley’s actual feelings. For example, using the same flashback from the day she was in high-school,”And all me house points and me blessin’ from the pope just disappeared before my eyes. I was never really interested in school after that. I became a rebel.” This quote exemplifies that this was the reason why her life had no adventures, no happiness and obviously her life now (as Shirley Bradshaw), a miserable middle-aged woman with her dreams shattered in a matter of seconds because of a lousy head-teacher who didn’t believe in anything she said and thought she was an utter failure. This makes us sympathise for Shirley because she can trust us a lot as if we are her closest friends letting us know on secrets even she won’t tell to her other friends.

Russell additionally compromises another device called dramatic monologue or the use of camera. This is when a person (Shirley) is talking to us through the lens of the camera. For example when she talks to either of the wall, rock or camera, she really is taking to us. She treats us like her confidante, by telling us her innermost thoughts; it’s as if we are the only real friends she has. An example of this is when she in the kitchen speaking about Joe, “I know he’ll keep his promise but the truth is… (Shirley turns and speaks to the camera), I don’t want him to.”

This essay has illustrated how the author of a west-end hit screenplay and film, “Shirley Valentine” has put across an important message of sympathy towards Shirley to the audience. It had encouraged them to think as if they were Shirley, feeling her pain and utter sadness brought towards her by all the other people in her life who make her feel small and think as if she had no purpose in life. They used her like a baby’s doll, when you were small you wanted to play with it and have it next to you all the time, when you grew older you forgot about the doll and abandoned it. Shirley Valentine is a character that portrays Russell’s personal experiences of the working class. He describes how Shirley is a symbol of the working class, middle aged housewives who have never achieved their dreams .

Shirley was never appreciated by anyone until the day she when to Greece and had the time of her life, when she found out who she was, that was also the day when her friends and family finally realized that she does have a life and that she is a major importance in their life. They also realized that she was real person with real a feeling, who deserved to be treated with respect and gratitude just like anybody else. People started to treat Shirley just the way she always wanted to be. She finally let her young inner person inside her, out and she liked herself just for being- herself, Shirley Valentine.

I think that the devices that the writer uses in order to evoke sympathy to the audience has been successful because the way he makes Shirley flashbacks really emotional for example, when he uses pathetic fallacy for when she has just seen Marjorie Majors go off in her taxi, saying “Goodbye Shirley Valentine” her mood changes to sadness while she walks down the deserted road and the colour changes into blue it then begins to rain.



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