Willy Russel gives his characters a day out at the sea-side
- Pages: 13
- Word count: 3228
- Category: Character
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Our day out written by Willy Russell is set in liverpool 1977, where every child was held to a high social standard regardless of their ability, status and background. The play was based on Willy Russell’s own personal experiance during his teaching years while participating in a school trip out. Progress class is a class full of ‘backward like’ children that are illiterate, whom of which have no other hope of ever escaping their lives. This class is ironically named as no progress is made in ‘progress class’.
The children are metaphorically stranded on their trip out by the desperation of their stuations back in Liverpool. This essay is going to discover the reasons why each theme has been chosen and why Willy Russell left his constructs emotionally barefit. His characters each represent a different opinion and lifestyle, this will also be discussed and the reasons as to why each character is strikingly different but subtly similar using the themes that are displayed throughout the text.
The children of progress class are stranded, however this is only so when the meaning is applied metaphorically, as the children are never figuritivly trapped or stuck anywhere. There is no literal meaning behind the use of the word ‘stranded’. Although no character is literally stranded they are all trapped in different ways. Not only are the children stranded but also Mr Briggs and the other teachers. Mr Briggs is trapped in his rigid posterior, being incapable of shedding the formal outlook that he possesed. “.. trapped in her social situation.. ”
The use of the word ‘trapped’ when coupled with stranded shows that there is no hope of escaping for these children and that they are doomed to live the rest of thier lives as penniless scroungers, many of which already infect the back streets of Liverpool. The use of words such as ‘trapped’ and ‘stranded’ are ingenious as they add to the desperation or the situation; this therefore means that the right emotions are being provoked and that the playwrite has achieved the target that was set when he decided to re-tell an incident of similar quality to this.
This adds to the reality and reinforces the fact that these constructs do infact represent the real children of Liverpool common, also that these situations are being faced daily and that even though this play is full of fictionous events the underlying tone and experiances are real. Mr Briggs starts the play as a rigid, structured, rule abiding teacher, he follows the rules perfectly and becomes inraged at the slighest undeciplinary act. Originally he is not meant to accompany Mrs Kay on the trip with Progress Class, however does so on the head master’s order.
Mr Briggs immediatly tries to take over and stucturize the trip, using orders and acting the part of the strict figurehead, ‘Sit down! ‘ His opinion of progress class is that of a sterotypical view, he believes that because they have learning difficulties and are finacially disadvantaged they are of a different species of people. “.. children like ours.. “. However he still believes that he is doing them justice by holding them against a standard that they have never been taught to abide by.
Mr Briggs dislikes Mrs Kay’s wanton teaching methods, not understanding her opinion or point of view ‘ fine attitude for a member of a teaching profession.. ‘ as he believes that all those in the profession of teaching and educating should have identical views to his own methods, rules and functions. His first character change happens at the zoo when the children show intrest in learning from him, this takes him by suprise, softening his attitude making him think that he has misjudged these youths; but when they break his trust “I trusted all of you, but its obvious trust is something you know nothing about. he snaps back to his former rigid self.
The event that changes his perspective is that of rescueing Carol from her suicide attempt. This heartfelt talk enables him to finally relise the harshities of these children’s lives, it is then he begins to share Mrs Kay’s view about letting the children enjoy this one day out, as it may be their first and last. This new attitude then changes his relationship with the other children, to one that is more understanding and could only be described as Mrs Kay’s partner; due to this attitude change the children also see the softer side of their teacher.
Mr Briggs also forms a closer bond with Carol as for the following scenes she is always in his company ‘Briggs is snapped … Carol next to him .. ‘. This is because she would identify better with him after sharing her troubles, dreams and hopes with him. However at the end of the day he still destroys the photo film, this is because while he was out of Liverpool he could escape the confines of his rigid reputation just like the children could escape their ineveitable fate. “He pulls open the film and exposes it to the light. ”
Mr Briggs’s construct is crafted in this complex way to reflect the rigid standard of education that is commonly found in the elder generation, as this was the era in which less fortunate children born without finacial support would suffer and those without the intulectual intelligents would fade into the cracks in life. By changing the character of Mr Briggs, Willy Russell shows moral. He shows that things should not be judge by their looks as often those looks will not convey all the facts, trates and secerts about a person, this is displayed in scene Twenty-Two: The Zoo.
The reinforcment of moral is evident throughout the text, as this is one of the main themes, more importantly this teaches the audience a lesson, acting as a fable as well as a play. This constructs given reaction’s inforce the reality of the play, this is of uppermost importance a the play ‘Our day out’ was based on Willy Russell’s own experiances, however this also engages the viewers attention as it would raise curouisty as to how else a character such as Mr Briggs will change to fit the situation or if he will continue to change at all.
By engaging the viewers attention the message behind the play is effectivly crossed, as full attention would be focused on the play. The other message transfered through Mr Briggs’s character is that everyone can change given the opitunity, that certain situations need a fresh perspective to be fully understand and taken advantage of.
However by the end of the play Mr Briggs’s construct reverts back to his former self, effectivly displaying that change isn’t a easy thing to commit to and that it is even harder to break habits when in a routine; this adds emphasis to the fact that anyone can escape for a little while, but eventually all good things must come to an end. On the other hand Mrs Kay is a more motherly character ‘.. they looked more like mother and daughter .. ‘ she acts open affectionate towards the chidren; treating them tenderly.
Mrs Kay seeks to give these deprived children a morsel of comfort and shelter away from their harsh lives, this is evident throughtout the text as she often sides with the children during arguements. However she to is trapped in a vicious cirlce of pity for these children as she realizes that she cannot save them from their future’s ‘ It’s too late for them.. ‘ She wishes to comfort them; even though it pains her. She refuses to give up and go home even when Mr Briggs demands it of her, she refuses to let him ruin their only chance of freedom. Therefore acting as their metapohoric gaurdian angel.
Mrs Kay is a relaxed and understanding teacher; who believes that their is more to learning than facts and figures. She molds her teaching methods to the children’s needs, understanding that they cannot be taught everything they should as nobody bothered to teach them at a younger age. This shows her compassion as a teacher, reinforces her motherly approach and also shows that affection works when handling a delicate situation. Her main goal for the day is not of an educational standing but that of a more motherly one; she just simply wishes for the children to have an enjoyable day out.
This is to be acheived no matter the cost even if that means the children can act as they wish, within reason. “I’m not going to let you prevent the kids from having some fun. ” Mrs Kay’s character was drafted this way to show the benefits of being a more compassionate character, also representing the educational system of the present. By crafting the situation in the way that Willy Russell has shows that as times have changed so has the educational system, it now benefits the children more and that the children of today do infact have better opitunities than those of the past.
However this contrast was not made evident to patronise the past, but more effectively show that they had the best optintunities avaible to them in that time, as the leaniant attitude of the present would neither fix or solve the problems that confronted those in the past era’s. The construct’s relaxed attitude effectivly displays the fact that these representative children have no future, the given emotions towards this reinforces that fact, making the impact more sharper and dominant.
This is the purpose of the play, to display the changes in the educational system, its attitude and the people imployed in its services. Therefore this message had to be of upper most importance, and had to be effectivly displayed which it was to exceedingly high standards by showing the contrasts that were represented by the characters of Mrs Kay and Mr Briggs. Carol is a member of progress class, who values Mrs Kay as a figure of comfortable authority. She is a dreamer, she wishes for more than she currently possess, but not in an unreasonable fashion.
All she desires is a good life ‘I like them nice places. ‘ However she knows she cannot reach this goal but still stays relatively optimistic about her future. Carol is stuck in a time when there is no place for a ‘backward’ child who is unable to read write or does not have any other skill. Carol feels the peacful attire of the beach scenery, she creates the image of perfect tranquility when standing on the cliff’s edge; the image perceived is that of looking to a future that is ruthless and as unpredictable as the waves.
When confronted with the idea of leaving the hope she found in Wales, Carol appears to give up on her life, she is aware of her situation and the expected outcome of it, when Mr Briggs suggests an alternative she is afraid to hope that she might actually recieve her dream and shuns the idea. She does not wish to return to Liverpool because she knows that once back there she will never get the oppitunity to escape again, that she will be stuck in the life that she had no part in choosing.
However her threat to commit suicide seems like a better alternative, that she would be better off feeling nothing and ceaseing to exist than to return to her deary fate, also the idea of killing herself appealed to Carol as it would be a fate she chose for herself unlike her prewritten future that was decided by money and status. “Don’t be friggin’ stupid. ” Carol has been designed to act in such a mannor to represent the percentage of children that wanted to have a good life that was forever out of reach.
Her constucts purpose was to show all the emotions that the real children stuck in the real times would feel, the helplessness, the desire and the dread of a future that would hold nothing more than sadness and poverty. The writer showed the possibilities that each child living in Liverpool in times when things were deprived would have to choose from. He gave Carol the personality of a shy child to empahsize on the fact that these children could just be forgotten about as shy is commonly associated with non-existant.
When Willy Russell crafted the scene in which Carol is comtemplating suicide, he captured the thoughts of every child in a situation deprived of hope, the desperation attached to the scene provokes the right emotions in the audience, crossing the boundary of just a play to that of a play that means something, and this meaning is convayed through Carol as she represents the children stuck in a life of poverty, and nothing is more reliable than a expert that has been through or going through those problems.
Andrews is another member of progress class, however unlike Carol he chooses not to want more than he can hope of ever getting, instead he chooses to act like the street erchin that any member of a higher standing class would take him for. He displays the common idea that all children possess; that street image is everything. By smoking and acciosating with Digga and Reilly he believes he is becoming street wise and preparing himself for his future the best he can.
He also displays the wrecklessness of a child that comes from a broken family and one without disiplin, where his mother is not slightly intrested in him as she has to work just to keep them sheltered. Beginning to start smoking at eight also can be read as a sign of attention seeking. ‘Thirteen and you can’t stop smoking! ” Andrews has been crafted this way to represent the other percent of children that refuse to hope. This constuct was designed to make the audience realise that there was two sides to the street children and that some had given up hope and resigned themselves to a gruel life already.
By making Andrews’s character act distasteful by making him smoke shows that as a result of the poverty inslaving their parents, the parents had no time for their children, which left them to do as they pleased, or activly seek attention by taking drastic measures. This shows that all actions have effects and consequences. An element of realistic facts can be seen in Andrews’s character as a child living in hard times would have to build a reputation for himself to stay safe, which is exactly what Andrews’s construct is starting to do.
His character is also present for comic relief, as a play with real events adressing real issue’s could be hard to watch without any sort of comic relief. Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay are both entirely different; Mr Briggs is structural, formal and has a rigid teaching method. He measures children, their capibilities and behaviour against an imaginary yet still harsh guideline that is associated with every other child, he doesn’t understand the fact that these children are not interlectually equal to those of a high social standing.
However his views do change, only after he takes the time to understand the children, but they do not permently stay changed. He believes that the trip is just a ‘ill-organised affair’ for the children to run around and act like hooligans. Mrs Kay however is the ‘mother hen’, she accepts the children and believes that there is more to learning than strict traditionally methods and options.
Whereas Mr Briggs believes that the trip is in shambles she believes it is a great oppitunity for the children as it will be their first and last trip out of Liverpool, she pitys them as they think the crumbling castle is a heaven, she leaves them to run around and enjoy their one day of freedom. This makes her a more likable character and also more tolerable to the children of progress class as she neither judges or condems them for there lack of typical social skills and intelligents.
She is a flexible and friendly associate who would stand up, defend and side with them in every occasion. “You are on their side aren’t you? ” Willy Russel has made the constructs of Mr Briggs and Mrs Kay different as they both represent a different belief about education. ‘Mr Briggs’ is crafted to show the formal and rigid side of education that because of it’s strictness leaves no room for those who do not have the grades. He shows the positive and negative side of structural teaching.
On the other hand Mrs Kay’s construct is designed to show the softer side of education that fits itself to the children and their needs. This can also be interperated as Mr Brigg’s character representing the past generation of teaching whereas Mrs Kay’s character represents the present era of teaching which adapts itself when needed. As the script progresses the constructs play against each other to show that both the formality and understanding is needed to be successful whilst handling children of any and all capibilities.
That to achieve the perfect balance it is impossible to be either a ‘Mrs Kay’ or ‘Mr Briggs’ but like the ‘Mr Briggs’ after his encounter with Carol on the cliff, where he both held authority and also treated the children as human children and not just illiterate baggage. The Children in the play speak in Common Liverpoolian, “I’ll gob ya'”, which was mostly adapted by the folk in the lower social status’s, the teachers however speak Standard English,”.. Castle Authorities.. ” which displays their educated stance.
As the children in progress class have difficulties with learning it is expected that they would speak without the refined edge of someone who went to further education. “We bring them to a crumbling pile of bricks mortar.. ” Willy Russell made the language rift between adults and the children in the text to show that these were uneducated children and excellent adults whom of which act differently towards the children even though they came from the same high social standing.
Also this adds to the reality of the play, as this is the lanuage that would be used, with the common accent and basic vocabulary. The dialect used by the children also show the differences in era’s and that as time developes the English language is becoming more lax, that the children are talking very different from their parents and granparents, this is due to outside influences, aswell as upbringing and social status. In conclusion the youths of Progress Class are stranded, but only by their situations, backgrounds and lack of future.
The children have no hope of ever making anything of themselves other than factory workers or homeless street people. The character of Carol is crafted to transmit the message that not all children had a future and that sometimes no future was better than the one they had in store. This play shows that not only children can become stranded by circumstances but that adults can to have no way to escape the future they set for themselves.
This play contains many morals and addresses serious issues that are real. It helps the auidence understand better the life of children in lower classes and those who have no future, this is why Willy Russell left the children stranded, so that they audience can identify better with the real children in those times through the actors in the play, the situations that accure and the reason’s they accure.