‘Our response to Hugh is typical of the way that Friel never allows us to make simplistic assumptions: we are likely to be critical and admiring of him in equal measure. ‘ Discuss. The character of Hugh is a complex one. He has many qualities, which, allow us to be critical of him, but he also has many admirable traits. Friel creates a very human character, which makes it very easy for us as an audience to identify with. However with the character of Hugh one feels that his admirable qualities are less identifiable making it also very easy for us as an audience to be critical.
Hugh is explored through a number of different ways, with almost all of them providing us with a cause to be critical. He likes to interrogate his students. It exemplifies his authoritarian role as he tests his students. Its also a way of showing his vast knowledge of language and his fondness of showing off as seen by the way he greets his class. ‘Vesperal salutations to you all’. This idea closely relates to the idea that Hugh lives completely in the past, he is very similar to Jimmy Jack in his attitude.
Not only that but he seems to show no signs of changing. He speaks to his class in Latin and randomly asks them to translate, “Caerimonia nominationis- Maire? ” So not only is he living and teaching in the past but he is also imposing his outdated attitude onto his students, he is almost ‘dragging them down with him. ‘ Hugh is completely out of touch from the real world and even seems ignorant to who the Donnelly twins are, ‘Ah. Nora Dan can now write her name- Nora Dan’s education is complete. And the Donnelly twins?
Not only does Hugh seem to be completely out of touch from the real world but he almost uses Latin as a defence mechanism. When confronted by Maire with the idea of learning English he responds in Latin, ‘Silentium! ‘ Also he treats this conversation like many of the others, he almost tries to erase reality by pretending that Maire is not there, ‘ Doe she mean that Kerry politician? ‘ this also serves as a means to undermine and manipulate Maire. Furthermore, he intimidates his students with his authoritative manner and dislikes having any attention taken away from him.
This is given clarity when Doalty makes a harmless joke and Hugh responds with an insult and a maths problem, which he knows Doalty will not be able to solve, “Indeed – the precedent is there- the day you were appropriately named Doalty- seven nines? ” Also, his teaching seems unstructured and chaotic; he has random thoughts and almost acts on caprice asking random questions to his students. He is dictatorial, ruling by fear and intellect. His poor methods and attitudes to teaching are demonstrated by his refusal to teach Marie English.
Not only does he refuse to teach Maire English, but he is also critical of the language, he sees English as the language of ‘ commerce. ‘ Hugh is full of ideals and bravado but when he is put to the test he fails, this is highlighted by the final story which he tells Jimmy. It is also demonstrated by is failure as a teacher and what makes this more ironic is that this is shown to the audience by his son, Owen, “An expeditio with three points and he never gets beyond A and B.
” Hugh’s own son regards him as ‘bloody pompous’ and in many respects a failure. Owen also reiterates the fact that Hugh ‘drinks too much,’ which is one more of his failings as a teacher. He arrives to teach drunk, and drinks whilst in class, ‘Hugh puts his hand into his pocket and produces a flask of whisky,’ Also Friel constantly reminds us, the audience, of Hugh’s state, ‘Hugh is now drunk. He holds on to the edge of the table’ and ‘Hugh is trying to negotiate the steps.
‘ This small gesture that Friel creates reminds the audience of Hugh’s weaknesses and failings, as a person, a father and a teacher. Hugh treats his sons with the same lack of respect as his students. He does not appear to be a caring father in any respect. This is apparent by the way he treats Manus. ‘He removes his hat and coat and hands them and his stick to Manus, as if to a footman. ‘ He treats Manus as a slave and expects to be waited on ‘hand and foot. ‘ Also, he constantly demands things from Manus, ‘a bowl of tea, strong tea, black- and a slice of soda bread.
” This apparent expectation to be treated as a superior figure and be waited on, is demonstrated by the way Hugh expects Owen to taken on Manus’s position, as a servant, when Manus has gone. Not only that, but he also sees himself as an academic who is superior to everyone, not only his sons and students but also to the English. For example, the way he treats Yolland. He attempts to intimidate Yolland by tying him up in verse. ‘Yes, it is a rich language, Lieutenant, full of the mythologies of fantasy and hope and self-deception- a syntax opulent with tomorrows.
‘ Hugh is so wrapped up in his own world and opinions that he has a complete lack of encouragement for Manus. Hugh expects Manus to remain as his servant and to be eternally subservient; he never encourages Manus to be ambitious. For example, Manus wanted to apply for the new teaching post at the ‘New school’ but could not because of his father. The way in which Friel incorporates the idea of the ‘New school’ is very important because it serves many purposes and reveals many things about the different characters.
Hugh assumes he has the new post without actually being told this yet, he even tells everyone the job is his, “Mr Alexander invited me to take charge of the [new national school] when it opens. ” This line is particularly significant because we later find out that Hugh is not given the post. One naturally assumes that Hugh was not offered the post at all and simply assumed that because he held the post of Head Master at the Hedge School, Hugh naturally assumes that he would be given the post simply due to this present position.
However, we, as an audience are never told whether or not Hugh was actually offered the position but Mr Alexander changed his mind once he knew Hugh would not teach English, possibly Friel is highlighting the hypocrisy of the English. This we will never know, but Friel creates the character of Hugh in such a way so that we naturally assume this to be part of his character and something that he would do in order to prevent his pride from being dented.