Translations

by

Brian Friel

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A waif-like woman who could be anywhere from seventeen to thirty-five years old, with a speech impediment so severe that she communicates primarily through gestures and grunts. Manus teaches her to say her name at the beginning of the play, and she thanks him with flowers. Sarah’s attentiveness to Manus throughout the play suggests her affection for him, though his increasing coldness towards her suggests he does not feel the same way. Sarah sees Yolland and Maire kiss after a local dance and runs to tell Manus. When Yolland then goes missing, Sarah cries to Manus that she is sorry. Captain Lancey arrives and demands that Sarah tell him her name, but she finds she can no longer speak at all. Despite Owen’s later assertion that she was simply frightened in the moment, Sarah emphatically shakes her head and leaves the stage for the final time. In this way Sarah represents the Gaelic-speaking people of Ireland, many of whom were only just finding their voice—that is, to read and write in their native tongue—when they were silenced forever by the British colonists.

Sarah Quotes in Translations

The Translations quotes below are all either spoken by Sarah or refer to Sarah. 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 3 Quotes

Owen: How are you? Are you all right?

Sarah nods: Yes.

Don't worry. It will come back to you again.

Sarah shakes her head.

It will. You're upset now. He frightened you. That's all's wrong.

Again Sarah shakes her head, slowly, emphatically, and smiles at Owen. Then she leaves.

Related Characters: Sarah (speaker), Owen (speaker), Captain Lancey
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
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Translations PDF

Sarah Character Timeline in Translations

The timeline below shows where the character Sarah 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
...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 disused farm... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...and works as an unpaid assistant for his father. At the moment he is teaching Sarah (who sits on a stool with a slate on her knees) how to speak. Sarah,... (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 reluctant, but... (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 that the man is probably drinking at a pub following a baby’s christening. With... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...woman in her twenties named Maire enters. Manus feels awkward that she saw him kissing Sarah and he comments on having seen Maire harvesting hay. Maire ignores him and sits on... (full context)
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...hedge school out of business. He says he cannot apply because his father already has. Sarah is listening behind his shoulder. (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Before bringing the men in, Owen remarks to Sarah that she is a new face in the classroom. After a brief pause she responds... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...is called Manus watches as Owen confidently returns to the rest of the group, while Sarah stares at Manus. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 2
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...what “always” means, before repeating roughly the same phrase 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
The following evening, it is raining outside as Sarah and Owen sit in the schoolroom—Sarah with a book in her lap and Owen with... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
The Limits of Language Theme Icon
...Owen repeats that it will be suspicious if Manus leaves now, so Manus turns to Sarah, who says she will give the message for him. Manus says he is going to... (full context)
All Translation Is Interpretation Theme Icon
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Owen asks Sarah if there is class tonight and where Hugh is. She mimes rocking a baby, but... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
Lancey points at Sarah and shouts at her to tell him her name. She tries frantically but cannot, so... (full context)
Language, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Colonialism and Cultural Imperialism Theme Icon
...“sweet smell” of potato blight, then runs off to hide her animals. Owen tends to Sarah, insisting she was only frightened and her speech will come back. Sarah emphatically shakes her... (full context)