How Alan Bennett conveys the changes that take place in Miss Ruddock, during the course of the Monologue
- Pages: 15
- Word count: 3598
- Category: Change
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Lady of Letters presents an ordinary middle-aged woman in a furnished room with a bay window. As we know, a bay window is arched it allows you to look further out into the world, we as an audience get the impression that she’s more of a observer rather than an participant. Miss Ruddock is a typical woman of her generation; she is a busybody with a compulsion to write letters about all that she finds objectionable, such as complaining about hearse drivers who smoke at a crematorium. We also get the sense that her childhood memories are based on traditional attitudes and values.
We as an audience, sum up the impression that Miss Ruddock is aged between 40 and 60, who was unable to keep up with the dramatic change of world, in the course of her life. Her only real contact is through her bay window, where she looks out at people’s lives, without actually interacting with them, we also learn that she has become an obsessive letter writer because she hasn’t got a place in society. Miss Ruddock letters are a form of communication to her. Initially, Miss Ruddock creates the impression that she would like to be recognized as an upper class and sophisticated character.
This is created, from the letter she wrote to the crematorium, complaining about the lack of service, where she seems to be convincing and knowledgeable when writing very formally. As well as this, we as an audience also discover that, there may be signs that she was just acting posh. For example, the word “tab-ends,” she used was one of the words that created the impression she’s may be acting posh. We also get the impression that, she has stayed in the same environment, in which she was brought in; this is supported by the local dialect.
When she pretended to have a place in society, she combined a mixture of formal English, that sounds artificial and her local dialect to achieve this. Miss Ruddock also seems to be very lonely. This is because, she looks out at people’s lives, without actually interacting with them and she uses her letters as a way of communication. From one point of view we feel sorry for Miss Ruddock, because we as an audience think she is writing pointless letters, which is not going to have any affect on the crematorium as it is not worth complaining about.
She also creates the impression that, she attempts to be the guardian of the society and it’s her duty to inform others in the society, of what’s going on, and this is assumed because of they letters she writes. In the beginning our sympathy is evoked further, because we as an audience think that she feels she’s doing things in the interest of the community . For example: to improve the service of the crematorium for other people. When really we as an audience know, that she just needs someone to reach out to and contact with.
It is also important to remember that, it isn’t that Miss Ruddock doesn’t choose to participate or not have friends. It is the circumstances she is in which makes it difficult for her to find opportunities to participate. When she lived with her mother, she was used to the environment she lived in and it was because of these familiar environments, that people in the same generation like her feared less crime, therefore people of her generation believed this led to the increase in security and with her having a role in society, society was more stable.
Nowadays society in more transient, because change is taking place faster than ever before and people like Miss Ruddock fear more, because their not used to hearing about crime, their not used to who lives, five houses down on their street anymore. It is a modern multicultural world full of dramatic change, which has brought about insecurity for people like Miss Ruddock, and it’s because of this insecurity that imprisons her, in her own house, which brings about her being lonely.
Being isolated in her own house and being back to the same place everyday, we feel Miss Ruddock is trapped as an observer of the world rather than a participant, although she may think she is. One of things that reinforce she is trapped in her own house is the clothes she wears are old and dull, typical of her generation because but you wouldn’t see many people wearing them. The tight collar of clothes may also represent the enclosure from the rest of the world. This is highly contrasted with the clothes that the younger generation wear.
It may also be argued that her actual character is exact opposite to what young people are nowadays. For example, it is thought that: young people don’t write many letters and don’t stay in the same place every time. When we watch the video monologue, we feel she is trapped, isolated and cut off from the world, is that through out the course of the monologue, Miss Ruddock seems to always come back to the same place. We as an audience may be annoyed by this, because we are often used to change with our lives.
It could also be argued that, because Miss Ruddock is used to the similar environment, as with her mother and her furnished room, which the reason for her staying in the same environment, is that it brings ever more security. We as an audience get assumption that Miss Ruddock listens to the media, for example “I’m just waiting for the paper coming”. When Miss Ruddock hears about crime, murder and attacks on elderly people, from the media, which in fact doesn’t represent a reliable piece of evidence; this is sure to make her even more terrified of the world and might prevent her from making friends and having a role in the society.
Miss Ruddock thinks it enables her to be more aware of the outside world. Miss Ruddock has a very stereotypical view of everyone I think this because the media has shaped her judgemental side towards people. Because Miss Ruddock has a stereotypical view of people she doesn’t give herself a chance to socialise with them. An example of this is “It’ll surprise me if they’re married. He has a tattoo anyway. ” We also get the impression that, either Miss Ruddock is very gullible or the media is very persuasive.
As with Miss Ruddock and the media, they are very is similar, they are both highly selective, in things they want to be done. In the course of this monologue, Miss Ruddock makes various references about her childhood. From example when Miss Ruddock mentions ‘once upon a time,’ she is referring back to her childhood, and by doing this is tells us that, Miss Ruddock hasn’t forgotten about her memories and that they are still strong. This means, she may refer back to her childhood quite regularly.
Miss Ruddock is referring back to them, quite simply because she is fond of the time she spent with her mother, probably because she was use to the environment she live in and that she knew she was in safe hands then. We as an audience sense the impression, that nowadays Miss Ruddock is very regretful and nostalgic of her past, for example “My mother knew everybody in this street”. It may also be that the reason for Miss Ruddock to refer back to the past, is that she may not be adapting too well with the modern world, and she is not adapting too well because she is not used to the change of the modern world.
So when she sees something which has changed in the modern world, such as a “tattoo”, it is more comfortable for her to dislike it since she is used to the same things in the same environment. Miss Ruddock often judges situations by its appearance, for example the filthy kiddy, the tattoo and about the Asians, and really the irony is that she doesn’t know about the changes in the multicultural world are like, so she hasn’t adapted fully to it. If people needed help they would go to the ‘pillars of society’ such as the vicar, police, doctor etc for help.
People knew what to expect when they needed support. Miss Ruddock even quotes that ‘it’s not my duty to keep the peace then, is it? ‘ These ‘pillars of society’ are mentioned in several letters such as the letter to the local paper about the archbishop’s hair, the letter stating that the chemist’s wife is a prostitute, the complaint about the crossing warden to the MP about the rise in crime. It seems that Miss Ruddock believes in these ‘pillars of society’, as she continuously mentions them throughout the monologue, and at the same time she complains about them.
What comes over to the audience’s mind is obsessive. What makes Miss Ruddock feel nostalgic are the ‘pillars of society’ because around the time of her mother when she knew everybody in the street when there was a problem, the correct authority would handle it and everybody knew the outcome. Where as now she has to tell the authority to do what they need to do e. g. ‘I passed the place where there was a broken step I wrote to the council was a danger to the public. ‘ This may remind her of her past and may make her feel that in her generations there would have been no problems.
Miss Ruddock is alienated from the modern world because the loss of her mother represents the loss of protection. Although we as an audience recognize her alienation, Miss Ruddock thinks she’s participating, when she thinks she has a role in society. When really we as an audience knows she’s not participating. ‘The key note is participation’, this phrase used by Miss Ruddock is interesting, as she does not participate herself. As with the media e. g. newspaper, her letter are not actually physically participating, therefore she seems to be contradicting herself.
On the other hand, this means we as an audience are therefore less gullible. It is a modern multicultural world full of dramatic change, which has brought about insecurity, and it’s because of this insecurity that imprisons her, in her own house, which brings about her being lonely. The way to escape this to be in contact and communicate with other people, she uses her letters as a form of communication. When she does this, she reduces that amount of loneliness she feels.
In order for Miss Ruddock to receive a reply, she tries to make the recipient thinks that she is convincing and knowledgeable, and a person who has a role in society, when she’s not. This is how she feels she is participating; when it is interesting she’s not. Miss Ruddock thinks that she is apart of the world rather than an observer as she writes a lot of letters during the course of the monologue. In the beginning, we see her with her face half hidden by a shadow, this symbolises that there may be things we don’t know about her.
Miss Ruddock’s first line is as if it were have way through explaining something and this is what engages us to read further. “I can’t say the service was up to scratch. It smacked of the conveyor belt, in fact. ” As we know, it is a letter of complaint, complaining about, and the service not being up to scratch, grown men smoking and hearse drivers smoking during the ceremony. It is also interesting, that she chooses to pursue that matter, when normally you would deeply sorry to see the death of that person.
On the other hand, if what she was saying was correct, you could argue that she had every right to complain. Although in the circumstances she was, you could say that, for many other people it would have been bizarre. This just proves how different Miss Ruddock actually is from the rest of the world. As the monologue progesses, then we as an audience see that Miss Ruddock is very deceitful, when she put on an act of formal English.
An example of this is ‘I said I thought the hallmark of a ceremony of that nature was reverence, whereas the word that kept coming into my mind was brisk. The use of posh, formal English creates an impression that she is convincing, knowledgeable and to be listened to. Miss Ruddock also makes out to be, or you could say she would like to be a sophisticated character. We also get the impression, that she has stayed in the same environment, in which she was brought in; this is supported by the local dialect this also creates the impression of having a limited horizon. When combined, formal and informal English, this creates the effect of an artificial and uneasy combination.
When I first read this letter, I found the response of Miss Ruddock was very amusing but not the circumstances she was in. After she had wrote off to the crematorium, she quoted, “I had a charming letter back”, my guess is that, partially the reason she described the letter back as charming is that, she knew what she complained about was done. I also understood that, she fully created the impression of convincing and knowledgeable to Mr Widdop, in order for Mr Widdop to say, “He was most grateful I’d drawn this matter to his attention.
Miss Ruddock even wrote a letter thanking him, which may also prove that she is satisfied, with what is done and how quickly it was done. It could also be argued that, she wrote off to stay in communication with someone and not be lonely. As she refers to the past again, “when Mother died I had fifty- three letters”. Not only does she reinforce about how lonely she is, but we also discover that on some occasions, she might compare it to her life. We also get the impression that she is lonely when she quotes, “I see we’ve got a new couple moved in opposite.
Miss Ruddock is very curious of change around her, people nowadays are the opposite. It is the fact she notices little changes, like the new couple, that we get the impression she’s lonely. On the other hand, if she had a role in society, which would keep her occupied, you would get the impression that she wouldn’t have time or the chance even to notice little changes such as a new couple moving in. miss Ruddock also states, “Don’t look very promising. The kiddy looks filthy”. Miss Ruddock often judges situations or people by its appearance, for example the filthy kiddy.
In her childhood, it may be that she wasn’t used to seeing changes, such as with the modern world, because she hasn’t adapted fully to it, and that when she did she it, she disliked it because, she was used to the environment she lived in and that it wasn’t what she was wanted to see. The received letter by Miss Ruddock from the opticians proves that Miss Ruddock has not been able to keep up with the change of world around us. Miss Ruddock certainly assumes that the opticians are “nice”, when really other people would acknowledge that the opticians were just trying to sell the product.
The optician deliberately stated that is was two years since they supplied Miss Ruddock with spectacles. For far as we could know, the optician may have lied about their records, nevertheless, they used how long a go she brought something as a selling point. People nowadays would have noticed that the opticians were trying to sell a product, rather than be “nice”. It is clear from this that, through her she has been unable to keep up with the change of world. Sometimes, however it may seem that Miss Ruddock is also writing letters in the interest of the community.
Sometimes it seems as though, she’s actually caring about the people of environment. For example, “I passed the place where there was the broken step I wrote to the council was a danger to the public. Little ramp there now, access for disabled. ” I think the reason she feels, she has a place in society, is that by writing letters to change the world, she thinks that is a role in society. For example, “whenever I pass I think, ‘Well, that’s thanks to you Irene. ” Miss Ruddock is not even shy about writing to England’s Queen. Miss Ruddock had written to the queen about the amount of dog dirt in front of Buckingham Palace.
She had then received a letter of reply form the cleansing officer apologising profusely. From this letter it is clear that Miss Ruddock is in dyer need of contact, and this is reinforced when Miss Ruddock then further replied to thank the cleansing officer but then she wrote back saying that say hadn’t been expecting another letter of reply. Gradually, however, we as an audience become aware that the seriousness of these letters is increasing. At first we thought the letters are funny, harmless and pointless, as we progress through the monologue it seems these letters are becoming more serious and harmful rather than harmless.
For instance, when Miss Ruddock writes a letter of complaint about police wearing glasses, “Namely the number of policemen these days wearing glasses. What chance would they have against a determined assailant? ” and about having found a strand of hair in her sausage. ‘I emphasized that I didn’t want a substitute packet, as it was plainly manufactured under unhygienic conditions, so would they send me a refund of the purchase price plus the cost of postage. ‘ This also suggests that Miss Ruddock draws up a conclusion, in how to settle.
It is almost as if, Miss Ruddock doesn’t even give a chance for them to think, its like, she want it this way and she’ll get it this way. Miss Ruddock is very stubborn here. The end of the monologue takes a twist, when the anonymous letters to the police about the couple opposite, are put into context of the other letters that see has written in the past (those that she hasn’t told us about), concerning us about the chemist’s wife being a prostitute, about the crossing warden about the chemist’s wife being a prostitute, about the crossing warden being a child abuser and about P.
C and the women at number 56. We realize these malicious damaging accusations toward people are not funny or harmless, and that Miss Ruddock has been very selective in doing this. By actually realizing this, it becomes aware that it is shocking that fact she lied. Toward the end of the monologue we get a much more deceitful, sinister and structive character. This is again reinforced when she tries to hide what she’s done. When asked if she wrote the letter, Miss Ruddock claims that she writes normal letters just like everybody else.
Miss Ruddock also tries to change the subject, when she asks for the policeman’s name and number and is probably going to write a letter of complaint. The fact that she comments on writing another letter, is hilarious. ”What letters? I don’t write letters. ‘ He said, ‘Not like you, love. ‘ I said, ‘Don’t love me. You’d better give me your name and number. I intend to write to your superintendent. ” Miss Ruddock’s stubbornness is reinforced here; she hides it until the police officer takes Miss Ruddock to the police station.
After thinking hard about what she did, we as an audience can accept the fact why she did it. The reason she was lonely, we as an audience can understand why she did it and at what cost she did it. So, in some sort of way, I feel, we can allow our selves to forgive her given in what situation she was in. Also, this sinister and structive figure are proven wrong, and we as an audience get a much more caring side to Miss Ruddock. As she mentions, this genuine and good-hated letter to Shirley, we as an audience feel she’s made a big redemption, as she becomes more altruistic.
In terms of stage directions, the video monologue reveals to full face of Miss Ruddock with natural light, symbolizing that she’s not got anything to hide and that she’s changed dramatically since the beginning. In prison she takes up courses this is lead to believe that there is hope after prison for Miss Ruddock as she can now go and find a job. In prison Miss Ruddock has a chance to allow herself to fit in with other people and have role in society. ‘I never said she could call me Irene. I don’t want to be called Irene. ‘
And after prison she didn’t mind being called by her first name. Do you know what Irene said, do you know what Irene said? ‘ Where as before she found it difficult to fit in as she doesn’t work or make friends given in the circumstances she is in. in the end we feel Miss Ruddock has a role in society and that she is willing then to socialize with other people and let other people socialize with her. In the end of the monologue, she has a place in society, which we believe will bring her to cope with the modern world. When she went to prison, although we feared for her, it turned out to be good for her. It is because of prison, where she was let free and able to be in contact with other people.