Translations

by

Brian Friel

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Lieutenant Yolland Character Analysis

The shy, gangling Lieutenant Yolland is a British soldier in his late twenties to early thirties and works with Owen to anglicize Irish place names throughout Baile Beag. Unlike his colleague Captain Lancey, Yolland develops a deep love for Irish culture and feels a strong sense of connection to Baile Beag. He even tells Owen that he fears their work is eroding Irish culture, and that he dreams of becoming fluent in Gaelic so he can better connect with the locals. He falls in love with Maire, despite not being able to have a full conversation with her, and the two share a kiss after a local dance. Later that night, Yolland goes missing. It is implied that the local Donnelly twins killed Yolland out of resentment towards British colonialism.

Lieutenant Yolland Quotes in Translations

The Translations quotes below are all either spoken by Lieutenant Yolland or refer to Lieutenant Yolland. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Translations published in 1995.
Act 1 Quotes

Manus: And they call you Roland! They both call you Roland!

Owen: Shhhhh. Isn't it ridiculous? They seem to get it wrong from the very beginning — or else they can't pronounce Owen. I was afraid some of you bastards would laugh.

Manus: Aren't you going to tell them?

Owen: Yes - yes - soon - soon.

Manus: But they...

Owen: Easy, man, easy. Owen - Roland - what the hell. It's only a name. It's the same me, isn't it? Well, isn't it?

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Owen (speaker), Captain Lancey, Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 36-37
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

Owen: Bun is the Irish word for bottom. And Abha means river. So it's literally the mouth of the river.

Yolland: Let’s leave it alone. There's no English equivalent for a sound like that.

Owen: What is it called in the church registry?

Only now does Yolland open his eyes.

Yolland: Let's see ... Banowen.

Owen: That's wrong. (Consults text.) The list of freeholders calls it Owenmore — that's completely wrong: Owenmore’s the big river at the west end of the parish. […] (at map) Back to first principles. What are we trying to do?

Yolland: Good question.

Owen: We are trying to denominate and at the same time describe that tiny area of soggy, rocky, sandy ground where that little stream enters the sea, an area known locally as Bun na hAbhann… Burnfoot! What about Burnfoot?

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: Can't you speak English before your man?

Manus: Why?

Owen: Out of courtesy.

Manus: Doesn't he want to learn Irish? (to Yolland) Don't you want to learn lrish?

Yolland: Sorry - sorry? I - I –

Manus: I understand the Lanceys perfectly but people like you puzzle me.

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

Even if I did speak Irish I'd always be an outsider here, wouldn't I? I may learn the password but the language of the tribe will always elude me, won't it? The private core will always be ... hermetic, won't it?

Related Characters: Lieutenant Yolland (speaker), Owen
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

I understand your sense of exclusion, of being cut off from a life here; and I trust you will find access to us with my son's help. But remember that words are signals, counters. They are not immortal. And it can happen — to use an image you'll understand — it can happen that a civilisation can be imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of… fact.

Related Characters: Hugh (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: What is happening?

Yolland: I'm not sure. But I'm concerned about my part in it. It's an eviction of sorts.

Owen: We're making a six-inch map of the country. Is there something sinister in that?

Yolland: Not in ...

Owen: And we're taking place-names that are riddled with confusion and ...

Yolland: Who's confused? Are the people confused?

Owen: … and we're standardising those names as accurately and as sensitively as we can.

Yolland: Something is being eroded.

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 52-53
Explanation and Analysis:

And ever since that crossroads is known as Tobair Vree — even though that well has long since dried up. I know the story because my grandfather told it to me. But ask Doalty — or Maire — or Bridget — even my father — even Manus — why it's called Tobair Vree; and do you think they'll know? I know they don't know. So the question I put to you, Lieutenant, is this: what do we do with a name like that? Do we scrap Tobair Vree altogether and call it — what? — The Cross? Crossroads? Or do we keep piety with a man long dead, long forgotten, his name ‘eroded’ beyond recognition, whose trivial little story nobody in the parish remembers?

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

Owen: (explodes) George! For God's sake! My name is not Roland!
Yolland: What?

Owen: (softly) My name is Owen.

Pause.

Yolland: Not Roland?

Owen: Owen.

Related Characters: Owen (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2, Scene 2 Quotes

Maire: Don't stop - I know what you're saying.

Yolland: I would tell you how I want to be here - to live here - always - with you - always, always.

Maire: 'Always'? What is that word - 'always'?

[…]

Maire: Shhh - listen to me. I want you, too, soldier.

Yolland: Don't stop - I know what you're saying.

Maire: I want to live with you - anywhere - anywhere at all-always-always.

Yolland: 'Always'? What is that word -'always'?

Related Characters: Maire Chatach (speaker), Lieutenant Yolland (speaker)
Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 3 Quotes

Manus: (again close to tears) But when I saw him standing there at the side of the road - smiling - and her face buried in his shoulder - I couldn't even go close to them. I just shouted something stupid - something like, 'You're a bastard, Yolland.' If I'd even said it in English... 'cos he kept saying 'Sorry-sorry?' The wrong gesture in the wrong language.

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Maire Chatach, Lieutenant Yolland
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
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Translations PDF

Lieutenant Yolland Character Timeline in Translations

The timeline below shows where the character Lieutenant Yolland appears in Translations. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...shops in Dublin and has six servants. He says he travelled from Dublin with Lieutenant Yolland, one of the sappers in charge of re-naming places in Baile Beag. He has also... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...Captain Lancey, a middle-aged man who seems uneasy around foreigners, and the shy, gangling Lieutenant Yolland, who is in his late twenties or early thirties. Lancey bluntly asks Owen—whom he mistakenly... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...it more palatable to the Irish locals. Owen asks if the group wants to hear Yolland speak; Maire asks if Yolland has anything to say, which Owen translates to Yolland as... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...and the “sappers” have proceeded with mapping much of the area. Owen is primarily doing Yolland’s job, which is to anglicize the names of everything from rocks to streams by approximating... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
...line, as well as a large blank map on the floor, which Owen consults enthusiastically. Yolland sits on the floor, appearing completely at ease in his new surroundings. A bottle of... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Owen points to a tiny beach and tries to get Yolland to pronounce the Irish properly as “Bun na hAbhann,” which means “mouth of the river.”... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Yolland again mistakenly calls Owen “Roland” before revealing that Lancey thinks they are not working fast... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Manus enters. When Yolland asks if he needs them to leave, Manus says no, but he responds in Irish... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
After Manus leaves, Yolland asks Owen if his brother has been crippled since birth. Owen reveals that Hugh fell... (full context)
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
As the two return to their work, Yolland reveals that a little girl spat at him yesterday. He asks Owen about the Donnelly... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...should continue for consistency, but is not sure if they should use “D-r-u-m” or “D-r-o-m.” Yolland asks about a house above their camping spot. Owen responds that it is the house... (full context)
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
 Doalty rushes in looking for Manus. He asks Yolland how he is; Yolland attempts to thank Doalty for something, but Doalty says he cannot... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Yolland says Lancey is similar to his own father in that he is meticulous in his... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...almost to the point of self-parody. He asks for a “drop” of poteen and greets Yolland in Latin.  Hugh then translates his words to English, remarking that they sound “plebian” in... (full context)
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...and then the builders of the new school to talk about his living accommodations there. Yolland says that he once lived close to a poet named William Wordsworth; Hugh responds that... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Yolland tells Hugh how “Roland” (i.e. Owen) is teaching him Irish. He says again how remarkable... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Hugh ignores Owen and continues telling Yolland how rich the Irish language is, positing it as a response to the drudgery of... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
After Hugh exits, Owen remarks that his father is pompous. Yolland, however, thinks he has a point: in creating a map of Ireland, he posits, they... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Owen explodes at Yolland, shouting that his name is Owen, not Roland. Yolland is shocked, and the absurdity of... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...it in back. Manus goes upstairs to empty the can. Owen then reintroduces Maire and Yolland, acting as their translator as Maire speaks “Irish” (though the actors continue to speak in... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...that down front is “a vaguely ‘outside’ area.” Music continues to play as Maire and Yolland run in laughing and holding hands, having just left the dance. They “talk,” though, because... (full context)
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Latin proves useless, so Maire repeats the three English words she knows: fire, water, Earth. Yolland grows excited to hear her speaking English and tells her it is “perfect.” Maire then... (full context)
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Maire moves away from Yolland, who begins to recite all the Irish names he has learned so far. Maire stops... (full context)
Act 3
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...not yet clear. As such, Owen encourages Manus to wait a few days, asserting that Yolland (who it becomes clear at this point has gone missing) probably just went to visit... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Manus reveals that he had planned to violently confront Yolland the night before and was holding a rock in his hand when he saw Yolland... (full context)
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Owen asks Bridget and Doalty if they saw Yolland and Maire leave the dance together. They confirm that they did, but that they did... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...milk can, clearly in distress. She asks if Owen has heard anything. She says that Yolland dropped her at home and mistakenly said in Irish “I’ll see you yesterday” instead of... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Maire insists Yolland would not just leave, and as such that something must have happened to him. She... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...says. With Owen acting as his translator once again, Lancey says they are looking for Yolland, and if they don’t find him within twenty-four hours they will shoot all the livestock... (full context)