The Monologue A Lady Of Letters English Literature Essay


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Irene Ruddock is a presumptuous, naïve, racist and nosey middle-aged woman, for whom at first we feel no sympathy toward, yet through the acting of Patricia Routledge, we develop a sense of pathos for her.

At the start of Scene 1, Routledge portrays Ruddock as a snobbish, complaining and whining lady. The actress sits in a rigid position, with the camera zooming out slowly from her head to her torso. She has a stiff, starchy haircut and her body is enclosed in old-fashioned, grey clothes. We feel no sympathy for Irene because Routledge does not open up to the camera, she remains firmly on her seat, and the dark lighting in the room makes the scene feel unwelcoming and awkward.

Although Routledge does sit in a defensive posture, she makes sudden glances through the bay window of the room. We see a contrast between light and dark; on the inside, Routledge is surrounded by darkness, but we see light shining through the window from the outside, trying to get in. We start to feel that Irene is trapped, and with Routledge's sudden eye movements into the light, we sense that she is uncomfortable in her current state and that she wants to be outside and free. From this, we can give some sympathy to Irene, because we are moved that she is caged and almost imprisoned.

In the monologue, when Irene talks about Miss Pringle and how she lost her mother the same time that Irene did, "She lost her mother round about the time I lost mine", Routledge alters the tone of her voice. She slows her speech down and gives a prolonged pause, staring despairingly outside. Routledge then quickly resumes her normal, rigid posture and starts complaining again. This quick lapse in Routledge's voice and position shows Irene's weakness for her mother, whom we can assume she loved dearly. We feel sympathy for her loss, as it has obviously affected her greatly.

As before, Routledge again slows her voice when Irene's mother is mentioned, this time she talks about how many letters she received when her mother died. This sudden change in speed continues as Irene talks about the new couple who have moved in opposite her. Routledge gives special attention to the phrase "The kiddy looks filthy" she says it slowly and with concern in her voice. From this change in tone, it becomes clear that Irene longs for a "kiddy". We are able to sympathise with her, she has lost her mother and all she now wants is company, a child to fulfil her maternal void.

We continue to sympathise with Irene and her yearning for company when she begins to talk about her "trusty Platignum". As the actress picks the pen up from an organised desk we almost sense an obsession in cleaning. As Routledge holds the pen, she tightly clasps it. When Irene mentions how the pen has been "a real friend", Routledge instantly softens her voice, and gives a genuine smile as she gazes at the pen clamped in her hands. This sad obsession with the pen makes us realise how lonely Irene is, and adds to our sympathy for her.

Further on, when Irene talks about the ramp she wrote to the council about, Routledge sits huddled, with her hands out of sight, looking slightly anxious. She speaks in a worried tone, while continually looking at the light through the window. The sense of space, with this sad, lonely and frightened lady sitting in a dark room on her own really does make you feel sympathetic towards Irene because you see how isolated she actually is. At the point when Irene says "My little monument that ramp", Routledge changes her anxious voice into a softer, higher voice and we can detect a little pride in the way she says it. This proud feeling that Routledge portrays at such a trivial issue makes us feel sorry for Irene, she has nothing better to do.

When Miss Ruddock talks about the chain of letters she wrote and received from Westminster council, Routledge gives a sense of desperation. As Irene says "…They didn't even bother to reply. Typical", we don't laugh at this joke in the amusing way we should, instead, we feel sympathy for Irene, because Routledge keeps her serious tone and doesn't display any sort of laughter or smile. The delivery of the joke is deadpan.

A point in the monologue when we feel a great deal of sympathy towards Irene is when she says "Getting dark". Patricia Routledge says it in a very reflective subtle tone, and we see that this is it for Irene, it is nearing the end and her time is running out. This is a sad moment but an important realisation.

The only time we see Irene Ruddock break down in front of us is at the point when she realises that she made a mistake, and that the boy she was worried about turned out to have leukaemia. As Irene repeats what the policeman said, "This is a serious matter…", Routledge changes her style of speaking all together. She gives long exasperated pauses and she builds the tension up to the point when Irene says "No. Leukaemia", and as soon as she says this, Routledge darts her eyes around the room and bites her lip. When Irene says "You'd better get your hat and coat on", Routledge starts to cry. This very distressing emotional breakdown from a character that is normally stern and stable adds to our concern for Irene, and we feel truly sorry for her.

At the end of the monologue, we feel the most sympathy towards Irene. Irene has now been arrested by the police and is in a prison. Unlike before, Irene has a completely new persona in prison, she now shows her hands, her hair is not starchy, her clothes are loose and her speech is jubilantly fast. When we watch this final scene we feel warm hearted and happy that Irene is free and settled, especially when Irene starts to look after her new room mate, a child she can now nurture.

The last sentence sums up how Irene now feels, "I'm so happy". When Routledge says this, she is almost tearful, and she can barely say it. This happy ending nearly gives us goose bumps; such is the joy felt for Irene and the potential for a happy life.

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