Translations

by

Brian Friel

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Manus Character Analysis

Hugh’s elder son and Owen’s brother, Manus, works as an unpaid assistant to his father and occasionally steps in as teacher at the hedge school in Baile Beag. He is in his late twenties or early thirties, pale, thin, and has an air of intensity. He is also lame, which is eventually revealed to be the result of Hugh falling across Manus’ cradle when Manus was a baby. Manus patiently and enthusiastically teaches Sarah to say her name in the opening moments of the play but later grows cold towards her. Manus also feels responsible for his father and, much to Maire’s frustration, refuses to apply for a teaching position at the new national school because he does not want to compete with Hugh for the job. Though bilingual, Manus refuses to speak English in front of the British officers, revealing his resentment of British colonialism in Ireland. Engaged to Maire at the beginning of the play, a heartbroken Manus confronts her and Yolland after Sarah sees the two kissing. He is holding a rock in his hand at the time and shouts at the couple. When Yolland then goes missing, Manus flees Baile Beag despite Owen’s warnings that this will make Manus seem suspicious.

Manus Quotes in Translations

The Translations quotes below are all either spoken by Manus or refer to Manus. 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

Bridget: Did you know that you start at the age of six and you have to stick at it until you're twelve at least — no matter how smart you are or how much you know.

Doalty: Who told you that yarn?

Bridget: And every child from every house has to go all day, every day, summer or winter. That's the law.

Doalty: I'll tell you something — nobody's going to go near them — they're not going to take on — law or no law.

Bridget: And everything's free in them. You pay for nothing except the books you use […] And from the very first day you go, you'll not hear one word of Irish spoken. You'll be taught to speak English and every subject will be taught through English and everyone'll end up as cute as the Buncrana people.

Related Characters: Doalty (speaker), Bridget (speaker), Manus
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

Maire: I'm talking about the Liberator, Master, as you well know. And what he said was this: “The old language is a barrier to modern progress.” He said that last month. And he's right. I don’t want Greek. I don't want Latin. I want English.

Manus reappears on the platform above.

I want to be able to speak English because I'm going to America as soon as the harvest's all saved.

Related Characters: Maire Chatach (speaker), Manus, Hugh
Page Number: 24-25
Explanation and Analysis:

Maire: You talk to me about getting married — with neither a roof over your head nor a sod of ground under your foot. I suggest you go for the new school; but no - 'My father’s in for that.' Well now he's got it and now this is finished and now you've nothing.

Manus: I can always ...

Maire: What? Teach classics to the cows? Agh —

Related Characters: Manus (speaker), Maire Chatach (speaker), Hugh
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

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: 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:
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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Manus Character Timeline in Translations

The timeline below shows where the character Manus 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
...late August of 1833 in the Irish-Speaking townland of Baile Bag/Balleybeg in County Donegal, Ireland. Manus and Sarah are in a hedge school situated in a dusty old barn, full of... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Manus, the school master’s older son, is in his late twenties or early thirties with shabby... (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 holds Sarah’s hand as he calmly instructs her to repeat phrases after him. She is... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Manus looks out the window and wonders aloud where “he” (someone yet unknown) is. Sarah mimes... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
A “strong-minded, strong-bodied” woman in her twenties named Maire enters. Manus feels awkward that she saw him kissing Sarah and he comments on having seen Maire... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Manus apologizes for not seeing Maire the previous night, saying he had been called upon to... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...it a few paces to confuse them and assert “a presence.” Jimmy recites Latin and Manus beats Doalty to translating it. (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...if anyone knows the name of Nellie Ruadh’s baby, who was christened earlier that day. Manus asks where the Donnelly twins are, and Bridget begins to answer before commenting on the... (full context)
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Manus walks around the school room to check in with each student. Upon reaching Maire, she... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Manus’ father, Hugh—a large, dignified yet shabbily-dressed man—enters carrying a stick. He has clearly been drinking,... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Hugh tells Manus to get him a cup of tea and then address the class. He says that... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...letting the men in, Owen says he is now on their payroll. Sarah excitedly tells Manus that she “said it,” but he ignores her, too interested in his brother. Owen says... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Hugh has everyone frantically tidy the room. Manus approaches Maire and remarks that she should have told him she was definitely leaving Ireland.... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
As the others mingle, Manus confronts Owen about mistranslating the soldiers’ words. Manus says that the undertaking sounds like a... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
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... (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... (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... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...is shocked, and the absurdity of the situation suddenly causes them to laugh. An elated Manus enters and says he has news; Owen asks him to speak English for Yolland, whom... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Maire arrives with a milk delivery. Manus tells her the news and attempts to thank her for something, but Maire interrupts him... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...Yolland said in Irish. They kiss. Sarah enters, sees them, and runs off shouting for Manus. Music crescendos. (full context)
Act 3
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...her lap and Owen with his map. Both are distracted and look towards the stairs. Manus descends with a bag of clothes and begins urgently selecting books from around the room... (full context)
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Manus asks if Owen will be around a while longer, and he instructs Owen to tell... (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... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
Manus again asks Owen to give his message to Inis Meadhon; Owen repeats that it will... (full context)
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...did, but that they did not see them return. Bridget says she did not see Manus following them but saw him returning alone later. Owen asks if they saw Manus stay... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Doalty agrees with Owen that Manus was a fool to leave and that the army will be after him. Lancey enters... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Hugh shouts for Manus to bring him tea. Jimmy says he is marrying Athene and he and Hugh jokingly... (full context)