Manly moves in A Raisin in the sun

4,363
-1

Published on

Published in: Education, Technology
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total Views
4,363
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
1
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Manly moves in A Raisin in the sun

  1. 1. Manly Moves in A Raisin in the Sun: A Discourse Analytical Assessment by Charis Gialopsos A dissertation submitted to the Department of English of The University of Birmingham in part fulfilment of the degree of Master of Arts in Literary Linguistics Department of English School of Humanities The University of Birmingham 2000
  2. 2. Abstract This dissertation examines the ‘progress’ of Walter, the main character of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, who is the play’s dramatic focal point, both structurally and thematically (Washington 1988: 111). Drawing on analytical tools from discourse analysis (speech moves) and sociolinguistics (politeness), I try to determine whether Walter achieves manhood. The analysis is supported by findings from conversation analysis and by Grice’s Cooperative Principle. After a brief discussion of the theoretical framework employed and the play itself (chapter 1), I proceed with the analysis of four key selected episodes from the play (chapters 2, 3, 4, 5), and present my findings in the final part of the dissertation (chapter 6), where I argue that Walter’s case is more complex than it might seem on a first encounter.
  3. 3. Acknowledgements I want to thank my supervisor and tutor Professor Michael Toolan for all his help and support. His suggestions and comments on this dissertation were invaluable. Although Umberto Eco (1986) claims that it is ‘bad taste’ to thank your supervisor for doing his job, Michael did it in the best possible way and I am grateful for this. I also wish to thank Eleni Pappa for her critical reading of the draft. The eye of a non-linguist is often more able to spot the unintelligible parts of a linguistic text, than the eye of its writer.
  4. 4. Table of contents Introduction 1 Chapter 1: Preliminaries 4 1.1 Speech moves 4 1.2 Politeness 6 1.3 The play 8 Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse; ‘You contented son-ofa-bitch – you happy?’ Conclusion Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status; ‘The New Neighbours Orientation Committee’ Conclusion Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news; ‘Man, Willy is gone’ Conclusion 10 17 18 27 29 35 Chapter 5: Self identity and inference; ‘My father almost beat a man to death…’ 37 Chapter 6: Conclusion 46 Appendices Appendix 1: Walter and George 51 Appendix 2: First meeting with Lindner 53 Appendix 3: Walter and Bobo 56 Appendix 4: Second meeting with Lindner 58 References 60
  5. 5. Introduction Introduction This dissertation is an attempt to understand some of the mechanics of literary dialogue in the light of linguistics; in particular, how the characters of a play are constructed and presented, in terms of discourse analysis. Therefore, a more general title for the dissertation could be ‘Stylistics and Discourse analysis’. Both topics have been subjected to many criticisms, one of the most recent being Sinclair (2000), who spoke of an ‘ad hoc character of literature’ that is resistant to any analysis and who also warned that discourse analysis is always fallible ‘since you never know what will follow’. Nevertheless, despite such criticisms, there still are valid reasons for doing both stylistics and discourse analysis. Stylistics can ‘be viewed as a way rather than a method – a confessedly partial or oriented act of intervention, a reading which is strategic, as all readings necessarily are’ (Toolan 1996: 124). Since people do read literature each in their own way, some of them can try to do it in a more strategic, analytical way. As for discourse analysis, its claimed fault seems to be its virtue, at least in relation to stylistics. The fact that a conversation can be unpredictable is what makes the analysis of it useful; while for the discourse or conversational analyst an unpredictable or unclassifiable move might cause the collapse of the theory, its existence is significant for the stylistician. In a way similar to Grice’s (1975) Cooperative Principle, where the implicatures commence only when the maxims are flouted, the more important discoursal messages often derive from cases foregrounded by the breaking of the ‘rules’. That does not mean that stylistics can say nothing about a ‘wellformed’ conversation. The basic hypothesis governing discourse analysis in 1
  6. 6. Introduction stylistics is that ‘by observing patterns of speech act use… we can begin to understand the characters on stage and how they relate to one another’ (Short 1996: 195). The play under examination is Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, considered by many an American classic. It ends with the following dialogue: MAMA (quietly, woman to woman): He1 finally come into his manhood today, didn’t he? Kind of like a rainbow after the rain… RUTH (biting her lip lest her own pride explode in front of MAMA): Yes, Lena. The aim of the dissertation is to find what are the elements, if any, indicating in terms of discourse analysis whether or not Walter reaches his manhood. In other words the following question is posed: Is the observation that Walter has come into his manhood justified in terms of the conversational behaviour he exhibits? However, Walter’s behaviour is not the only issue examined, albeit the most important. Someone’s status in a conversation, either a real person or a character, is not determined only by his/her conversational behaviour, but in addition by the way others interact with him/her as well. Hence, an additional question examined is How do the people surrounding Walter speak to him?. With this aim, two main frameworks are used, presented in the following sections; the speech moves model found in Toolan (2000) and the politeness model found in Brown and Levinson (1987). Both are employed with the support of findings from other theories as well, e.g., conversation analysis and sociolinguistic work on terms of address. Therefore, it can be said that the dissertation has a further secondary, but more ambitious aim. Apart from examining how and if Walter achieves manhood, it is an attempt to integrate 1 ‘He’ refers to Walter, Mama’s son and Ruth’s husband. More information on the characters and the play is given in the section entitled ‘The play’ p.8. 2
  7. 7. Introduction domains of knowledge in linguistics that are interrelated, having shared interests, but are rarely found together in extant stylistic analyses. 3
  8. 8. Chapter 1: Preliminaries Chapter 1: Preliminaries 1.1 Speech moves Before presenting the framework of speech moves employed, clarification of the term ‘move’ seems needed. Traditional speech act theory (Austin 1962, Searle 1965, 1969 and others) was concerned with the ‘act’. Sinclair and Coulthard (1975: 26) used the term ‘move’ as part of their rankscale model and proposed five kinds of moves, namely, ‘framing’, ‘focusing’, ‘opening’, ‘answering’, and ‘follow-up’. Burton elaborated the model increasing the number to seven; ‘framing’, ‘focusing’, ‘opening’, ‘supporting’, ‘challenging’, ‘bound-opening’ and ‘re-opening’ (Burton 1980: 61), while Tsui, also drawing from the Birmingham tradition, reduces the number to four: ‘initiating’, ‘responding’, ‘follow-up 1’, ‘follow-up 2’ (Tsui 1994: 61). All three models have in common the structural conception of the move. Toolan, interested in the tracing of functional categories, uses ‘move’ this way, commenting on its relation with the term ‘act’, thus: Because the interest here is in the functional analysis of utterances in goal-attentive talk, it has seemed more appropriate to use the term ‘speech move’ (with its connotations of intervention and contribution to an ongoing and developing exchange) rather than ‘speech act’, a term of art in an established tradition (Toolan 2000: 178). The theory is based on Halliday’s (1994: 68) remark that when people are engaged in talk they give or demand a commodity, which is either goodsand-services or information. The combination of the above parameters leads to a scheme of four core conversational moves (Toolan 2000: 179): Goods and services Information Giving Undertaking Inform Seeking Request Question 4
  9. 9. Chapter 1: Preliminaries It must be noted that although the parameters are clear and well established this is not also the case for the moves proposed. There are many occasions during the analysis, where the classification of a move is problematic and remains such, even after the attempt at classifying it. This is rarely due to the existence of ‘indirect speech acts’2, such as ‘I would like you to go now’ (discussed in Searle 1975: 65) which the present theory treats as a Request. Leech (1983: 178) points out that ‘when one does observe them, illocutions… are… distinguished by continuous rather than by discrete characteristics’. It is therefore difficult to have a watertight taxonomy that can strictly classify all the instances of communication and interaction; this would result to the existence of moves that are not totally compatible with the categories proposed. For that reason the scheme can be considered as a continuum, in which four fundamental types of move exist, but each move may merge with the other, in certain cases. When this happens, an intermediate move is met, something quite frequent in the analysis that proceeds. These ambiguous moves are examined to a greater extent than the others, for the following reason; since all moves amount to the identification of moments in the drama where characters interact affected by their goals, feelings, different constraints and other factors, it is important, if not to reach a final and definite classification of each move, at least to attempt to understand its dynamics and the way it relates to the context. Each complex move signals the realisation of a specific choice from the many offered by what Halliday (1970a: 142) calls the ‘meaning potential’ of language. 2 Regarding indirect speech acts it is useful to keep in mind Good’s comment that the illocutionary forces of many ‘are so transparent that to call them ‘indirect’ seems perverse’ (quoted in Geis 1995: 132). 5
  10. 10. Chapter 1: Preliminaries A fifth move, of secondary nature, is also part of the framework, that of Acknowledgements. Acknowledgements are secondary because ‘they are semantically attenuated… in that they are contingent upon some prior, exchange-driving act’ (Toolan 2000: 183). For this reason and as the dissertation examines the progress of a character through the play, that is his ‘active’ and not ‘passive’ interaction, Acknowledgements are only briefly commented upon. 1.2 Politeness Brown and Levinson build their model, originally published in 1978, on the concept of ‘face’, taken from Goffman (1967). They suggest that ‘all competent adult members of a society have ‘face’, the public self-image that every member wants to claim for himself’ and recognise two aspects of face; negative face: the want of every ‘competent adult member’ that his actions be unimpeded by others. positive face: the want of every member that his wants be desirable to at least some others (Brown and Levinson 1987: 61-2). Stating that there are certain kinds of act that intrinsically threaten face, what will be referred to as face-threatening acts (FTAs), Brown and Levinson present four ways of doing an FTA, provided that one chooses to proceed in doing it – the fifth option out being not to go on with the FTA at all.: i. without redressive action, baldly on record Do the FTA ii. positive politeness with redressive action iv. off record iii. negative politeness (adapted from Brown and Levinson 1987: 69) In cases ii and iii the speaker shows his/her willingness to respect at least some other element of the face of the hearer, despite his/her choice to do an FTA. In 6
  11. 11. Chapter 1: Preliminaries the fourth case, the FTA is formulated in such a way that inferences must be made by the hearer, in order to perceive the meaning of the act. Parameters that determine the gravity of the FTA are the ‘social distance’ of the two participants, their ‘relative power’ and the ‘absolute ranking of impositions in the particular culture’ (ibid.: 74). Leech (1983: 132ff.) also discusses politeness, but in terms of a Politeness Principle with six maxims, those of ‘tact’, ‘generosity’, ‘approbation’, ‘modesty’, ‘agreement’ and ‘sympathy’ that function in a way similar and complementary to Grice’s Cooperative Principle. Yet, as Fraser (1990: 234) notes, It is one thing to adopt Grice’s intuitively appealing Cooperative Principle. It is quite another to posit a host of maxims involving tact, modesty, agreement, appropriation, generosity, and the like, which are claimed to be guidelines for polite interaction, but without either definition and/or suggestions by which one could, on a given instance, determine the relative proportions of influence from these maxims. Although this model has been applied to the analysis of literary discourse (Leech 1992), the Brown and Levinson model is preferred, because of the codification it allows, bringing forward mainly two hyper-strategies of politeness, the positive and the negative. One thing must be stressed regarding the discussion of politeness that follows. Politeness is examined in its pragmatic and not its sociolinguistic dimension. As Thomas (1995: 146) notes, In speaking of politeness we are talking of ‘what is said’ and not of the genuine underlying motivation which leads the speaker to make those linguistic choices. That means that the instances of politeness met are not analysed for the sake of the analysis and the mapping of the politeness strategies employed. Rather, they 7
  12. 12. Chapter 1: Preliminaries are examined as strategic choices in the interaction, assumed to have been made with the aim of allowing each participant to fulfil his/her own conversational goals. 1.3 The play A Raisin in the Sun is Loraine Hansberry’s first play, originally performed in 1959. The author is ‘still spoken of with passion and reverence by a younger generation of writers and critics whom she encouraged and influenced’ (Washington 1988: 109), although she has left only a few marks of her talent because of her early death in the age of 34. As Abramson (1967: 241) notes, ‘A Raisin in the Sun is the first play by a Negro of which one is tempted to say ‘Everyone knows it’’. Even those critics that doubt its literary value, like Cruse who characterised it as ‘the most cleverly written piece of glorified soap opera’ (Cruse 1967: 278), concede its broad impression on the audience. The play evolves around a family of African-Americans called the Youngers, living in Chicago’s Southside during the 1940’s or the 1950’s. The members of the family are Mama, her two children Walter Lee and Beneatha, Walter’s wife Ruth and their son Travis. The Youngers are a family of three generations, with Mama at its head. Other characters involved, that will be met in the analysis of the selected episodes, are George Murchinson, Karl Lindner and Bobo. The basic story-line that the play follows is built upon the inheritance of ten thousand dollars, the insurance money given to the family for the death of the father. Walter wishes to invest the money in a liquor store, while Mama wants to buy a new house. As a compromise, Mama makes a downpayment for 8
  13. 13. Chapter 1: Preliminaries the new house and gives the rest of the money to Walter in order to make his investment and save some for the future studies of his sister. Nevertheless, instead of following her directions Walter invests and loses all the money. As a result, he at first decides to sell the new house at a higher price to the committee of the ‘white neighbourhood’ where the house is located, an offer which the family had previously rejected. The play ends with Walter finally turning down once more that offer and making peace with his family, who had disagreed with selling the house. The episodes that are examined have Walter, the focus of this dissertation, as a main participant, observed in four different psychological states and situations in the play: - 3 Episode 1: a ‘casual conversation’ with George Murchinson (see3 Appendix 1). Episode 2: the first meeting with Karl Lindner, while the family still have the money (see Appendix 2). Episode 3: the announcement of the bad news – the loss of the money – by Bobo (see Appendix 3). Episode 4: the second meeting with Karl Lindner, after all the money has been lost (see Appendix 4). The reader is advised to refer to the relevant Appendix before reading each chapter. 9
  14. 14. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse; ‘You contented son-of-a-bitch – you happy?’ The first part examined (please see Appendix 1) is the first encounter of Walter with George Murchinson, a member of a wealthy black family. In the previous moments Walter was standing drunk on the table, addressing an imaginary African tribe with a background of African music and applause from Beneatha, dressed in Nigerian robes. George has come to their house to take Beneatha to the theatre. After a brief yet intense argument between George and her regarding her clothes, she decides to change them and George is left waiting for her, having small talk with Walter’s wife Ruth. At this moment, and while they are talking about New York, Walter re-enters to the scene. The table presents the primary speech moves that each of the participants makes. Table 1 Walter George Ruth Informs 39 3 3 Questions 21 1 0 Requests 3 0 6 Undertakings 1 1 0 Total 64 5 9 78 The great number of moves made by Walter is evident. Out of 78 moves 64 are made by him, with only 14 left for both the other two participants. Walter therefore occupies more than the 80% of the conversational time. Of course, the number of the moves, by itself, can be a misleading clue, if the number of the words each move is consisted of is not examined; still it shows, at least, the tendency that a speaker has to engage in conversation. Only once does Walter make a second-turn move in respect to George, as in just one of his moves is Walter responding to an exchange initial move by George. This happens in their 10
  15. 15. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse first verbal interaction in this part, where he is the third party that enters an ongoing conversation. His previous initiating move, several lines earlier, was a completely failed one, followed by a move that signified the end of that scene. WALTER… (to GEORGE, extending his hand for the fraternal clasp): BLACK BROTHER – ! GEORGE: Black brother, hell! Lighting back to normal. In line 7 Walter offers the Inform ‘plenty of times’ that is prospected by the question but it is one that clearly breaks the Quality maxim (Grice 1975: 46), as shown by the description of Ruth as ‘shocked at the lie’. He opts to answer giving false information, in an attempt to save his face towards a ‘rich boy’ who has really been to New York ‘plenty of times’. This decision is manifested by the fact that he repeats the Inform, at least the most important part ‘plenty’, again after Ruth’s move. One third of Walter’s moves are made in only two turn-takings (l.28-39, 47-52). Sacks et al., attempting to pinpoint the rules governing the turn-taking say that transition from one speaker to another can proceed in two ways: either the current speaker selects/nominates the next one, or the next speaker may selfselect and start talking in a ‘transition-relevance place’, where a move has been completed. If nomination and self-selection are not employed, then the current speaker may continue until the next transition-relevance place, the next complete move (Sacks et al 1974: 703-4). In both cases from the play, Walter offers more than one chance to George to take the floor either by selecting him (l.28-9: How’s your old man making out?; l.29: I understand you all going to buy that big hotel on the bridge?; l.48: What the hell you learning over there?), or making his contributions short, thus creating many transition-relevance places for someone 11
  16. 16. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse willing to take the floor (l.31: Your old man is all right, man). Occasionally he also pauses, as shown by the playwright’s directions (l.23: a pause; l.29-31: he finds a beer… the other man). Nevertheless George does not take the floor until it is totally abandoned by Walter (lines 40 and 53). Yet, usually most of Walter’s moves are left hanging, not succeeded by the move they prospect. His question in line 17 is unanswered; in fact George withdraws from the conversation and he stays that way even after Ruth’s Request (l.21: you have to excuse him), with Walter taking his turn. Again in line 43, instead of George, we see Ruth reacting to his Inform. George violates the Quantity maxim (Grice 1975: 45) by not giving the amount of information expected; he does not give any information whatsoever. The failure of Walter’s conversational attempts is also suggested by his choices of certain moves and politeness strategies towards George. In line 34 his utterance ‘I’d like to talk to him’ is ambivalent between Inform and Request, without being what is traditionally called an indirect request of the sort of ‘can/could you pass the salt?’ (Searle 1975: 65). Although Searle (1975: 65) has other examples in the form of ‘I would like…’, he refers to the speaker’s wish or want that H will do A, something absent from our case. Furthermore, other constructions such as I’d like to win the lottery clearly do not expect someone to do something about it and, therefore, cannot be considered as Requests. Walter informs George about his want to talk (probably ‘business’) to his father. The character of the move, though, depends upon the participants’ knowledge and beliefs. If Walter knows that George can bring him in touch with 12
  17. 17. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse his father for this kind of talk, then he is making a Request. If George knows that he can play this mediatory role, or that Walter is asking him to, then again it is a Request, giving George the chance to recognise it as such and offer his help. Yet, if none of the above is true, then the move is an Inform. This is a case of an off-record FTA, since ‘it is not possible to attribute only one clear communicative intention to the act’ (Brown and Levinson 1987: 211). If challenged, Walter can always claim that it was an Inform and not a Request. The fact that George does not reply to it, shows that he has also opted to treat it as one more Inform among the others. When Walter sees his lack of reaction, he proceeds in phrasing a clear Request ‘me and you ought to sit down and talk sometimes, man’ in line 39. He does so by redressive action, employing both positive and negative politeness strategies. Using the familiar address form ‘man’ and referring to an implicit inclusive ‘we’ with ‘me and you’, he is claiming common ground between him and George (Brown and Levinson 1987: 103). At the same time, by the use of the more modalised yet deontic4 ‘ought’, than the use of ‘must’ for example, and the indefiniteness of ‘sometimes’ he tries to lesser the amount of imposition on George’s face (Brown and Levinson 1987: 176ff) attending the latter’s negative face. The Request that finally succeeds in becoming acknowledged is also presented in a context where positive politeness has been used to a great extent; notice the repeated use of ‘I mean’, ‘you know’ and ‘you dig’. Brown and Levinson discuss ‘you know’ as a realisation of a positive politeness strategy, aiming to assert common ground by the ‘Personal-centre switch’: ‘This is where S speaks as if H were S, or H’s knowledge were equal to S’s 4 The dilemma whether the modality is deontic or boulomaic is solved by the presence of deontic modality in George’s rephrased ‘we’ll have to…’ (l.40). 13
  18. 18. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse knowledge’ (Brown and Levinson 1987: 119). ‘I mean’ also flatters the positive face of the hearer, probably signifying the following ‘If I was as articulate as you, I would say…’, or ‘what I am trying to say, which I know you understand because you are intelligent, is…’. Nevertheless, his strategies do not seem to be able to overcome the lack of interest that George has exhibited towards Walter and the conversation. George’s second move in line 40 is another interesting case of violation of the Cooperative Principle: GEORGE (with boredom): Yeah – sometimes we’ll have to do that, Walter. By repeating Walter’s request he actually makes his contribution less informative than required, flouting the Quantity maxim, as a means of communicating his indifference. Furthermore, the use by George of the non standard ‘sometimes’ that Walter has previously used, George being a speaker of the standard variety, can be regarded as ironic. As Sperber and Wilson note, Irony… is a variety of echoic utterance, used to express the speaker’s attitude to the opinion echoed (Sperber and Wilson 1996: 265). As Walter passes from a more polite off-record Request to a less polite on-record one, similarly diminishes his general use of politeness towards George. In lines 9-11 he tries to please him, by requesting Ruth to serve him something, and jokes about the lack of entertainment. In line 17 he makes a remark about George’s shoes, but attributing that type of shoes to all college students, therefore making it sound less a personal insult. In line 42 he calls him a ‘busy little boy’, and returns to the subject of the ‘faggoty-looking shoes’ in line 52. The final stroke, after George’s first openly challenging move in line 53, is to call him a ‘son of a bitch’ in line 57. 14
  19. 19. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse While Walter’s impoliteness towards George increases, Ruth’s address of her husband changes relatedly. There are four moves that pose problems in their classification and, thus, the understanding of the scene. These are the following: a) Walter Lee Younger! (l.8) b) Walter Lee! (l.18) c) Oh, Walter – (l.27) d) Oh, Walter Lee – (l.46) Each of them follows a move made by Walter, which was either a lie (as in line 7) or an FTA aimed at George or Beneatha. But what is their function in terms of the four moves designated as the descriptive apparatus? The existence of ‘oh’ in c and d indicates that they may be Acknowledgements. Since these two are characterised as such and follow Informs, a which also follows an Inform, can be considered an Acknowledgement as well. Finally b, having roughly the same form as d, without the ‘oh’, could also be an Acknowledgement. Still such a characterisation of these moves is problematic. Firstly, b follows a Question, a move normally prospecting an Inform and not an Acknowledgement, e.g.: A – How are you? B1 – Fine, and you? *B2 – Oh, thank you. Secondly, these moves are not coming from George, the person that is addressed by Walter, but from Ruth, who may ‘bid’ for the floor. I believe that another move made by Ruth in the same context (following an Inform directed from Walter to George) can clarify the situation: RUTH: Walter, please – (l.43) 15
  20. 20. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse ‘Please’ is the word clearly denoting that a Request is made: ‘… its essential function [please] is to get someone else to do something… It can co-occur only with a sentence which is interpretable as a request’ (Stubbs 1983: 72). Ruth is trying to calm Walter and deter him from offending George, so it seems safe to assume that the previous four moves had the same aim. Brown and Ford (1964: 241) describe the use of the complete name, case a, thus: The use of the complete name [John Jones or even John Montgomery Jones]… is used as an intensifier and is particularly favoured by mothers ‘manding’ disobedient children (italics mine). Therefore a is also a clear instance of Ruth, albeit not his mother, trying to control Walter’s behaviour; she tries to stop him, therefore makes a Request. Burton (1980) as well, although she characterises acts like a and b as ‘nominations’ recognises the fact that ‘in unruly classes… the use of a child’s name, spoken with, say, tone 4 (Halliday, 1970[b]) could well be used and heard as a warning to stop behaving in ways that violate spoken and unspoken rules of classroom behaviour’ (Burton 1980: 135n). Although this scene does not unfold in a classroom, there are unspoken rules in a social encounter, such as the respect of the other’s face, rules that Walter clearly breaks like a disobedient pupil. Finally, the employment of ‘oh’ in c and d is another tool towards the same aim, with Ruth using it in order to get Walter’s attention. Oh marks a focus of speaker’s attention which then also becomes a candidate for hearer’s attention… Oh displays still another aspect of participation frameworks: speaker/hearer alignment toward each other… Individuals evaluate each other’s orientations: what one defines as appropriate level of commitment to a proposition, another may define as inappropriate (Schiffrin 1987: 99-100). Hence Ruth, watching Walter becoming more aggressive towards George and seeing her efforts to control him fail, moves through a continuum of Requests 16
  21. 21. Chapter 2: Impoliteness and verbal abuse ranging from the initial strict ‘Walter Lee Younger’ to the final desperate ‘Oh, Walter Lee’. Conclusion Walter’s main characteristic in this scene is the aggression he exhibits. Firstly, and most notably, he is aggressive towards George. From their first exchange he tries to challenge things related to him; his ‘big life’, connected to New York, his appearance (his shoes), his education, George himself (son-of-abitch). This hostility is not confined only to George, since neither Beneatha nor Ruth escape his FTAs. Yet, more accurately, his moves should not even be characterised as conventional FTAs that may threaten some aspect of the hearer’s face in the course of an interaction. They aim to insult, formed as Informs ‘designed to be abnormally threatening to the hearer’s face’ (Toolan 2000: 184). It was noted that the way Ruth interacts with Walter is typical of the ways adults try to control the children. In addition, Walter’s behaviour is even closer to a child’s because of the underlying motives of his impoliteness. He tries to harm George’s face because his own is harmed by George’s existence. Walter is struggling to find a way of living a better life, a life that George takes for granted. Therefore, his hostility derives from his envy towards George. This motivates Ruth to attempt controlling him, or at least, to communicate to George her desire of saving some of the family’s face, by indicating her efforts of doing so, and be civilised, through her Requests that progressively faint facing Walter’s stubbornness. 17
  22. 22. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status; ‘The New Neighbours Orientation Committee’ The episode under examination (please see Appendix 2) commences a few lines after the beginning of the third scene of act two. It is the moving day for the Youngers and Beneatha and Ruth are preparing the packages. They are in a very good mood, teasing each other, and Walter also participates in this joyful atmosphere, when he enters the scene. For the first time in the play, these three members of the Younger family are shown to get along peacefully with each other. At this point the bell rings to introduce Karl Lindner ‘the one white character in the play’, and along with him ‘the crucial scene in Act II’ (Abramson 1967: 249). He has come to ‘bribe the family in order to keep them out of his white neighbourhood’ (Washington 1988: 114). These are the primary speech moves made by each participant: Table 2 Lindner Walter Beneatha Ruth Informs 39 5 7 2 Questions 0 7 3 0 Requests 7 8 2 0 Undertakings 0 1 0 2 Total 46 21 12 4 82 It is not remarkable to see that Lindner is making half of the conversational moves. Coulthard (1985: 80) notes ‘the idea of reason for a call or visit… a basic assumption of all except chance encounters that the person who initiated the encounter has some reason for so doing’. Since Lindner is the one paying them a visit, because of a specific reason, he is expected to hold the floor for the extent of time that will allow him to display this reason. Walter is 18
  23. 23. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status the next main speaker occupying 25% of the turn takings with Ruth being the least actively participating character. Walter takes his first two turns in the opening phase of the encounter. Lindner has just come into the house and the participants are in the progress of ‘phatic communion’ whose function is The detailed management of interpersonal relationships during the psychologically crucial margins of interaction… [and mainly] the communication of indexical facts about the speakers’ identities, attributes and attitudes… [facilitating the interactants] to define and construct an appropriate role for themselves in the rest of the interaction (Laver 1975: 217-219). The scene is the following: WALTER (freely, the Man of the House): Have a seat. I’m Mrs Younger’s son. I look after most of her business matters. Req/ Inf/ Inf RUTH and BENEATHA exchange amused glances MAN (regarding WALTER, and sitting): Well – My name is Karl Lindner… WALTER (stretching out his hand): Walter Younger. This is my wife – (RUTH nods politely.) – and my sister. Inf/ Inf We can therefore discern in Walter’s moves the identity and role that he wishes to ascribe to himself. His first move is a Request done baldly, on-record. This is justified since the request is actually in the interest of Lindner and the amount of imposition is minimal (Brown and Levinson 1987: 69), but it may also be strategically used to re-rank the social distance and the power between the two men. They are strangers and of different race, yet the directness of Walter claims intimacy and equality. He goes on to assert his status as ‘the Man of the House’ by introducing the other members of the family, after having declared that he is the one responsible for handling his mother’s business matters. This projected self-image seems to be congruent with the greater 19
  24. 24. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status number of moves he is making in comparison to the other members of his family. Yet the scene does not totally confirm this, as Beneatha’s contributions, although fewer than Walter’s, seem to dominate the first half of the conversation. To comprehend this feature it is necessary to consider Goffman’s discussion of some of the listeners in a talk: … [there are] those who overhear, whether or not their unratified participation is inadvertent5 and whether or not it has been encouraged6; those (in the case of more than two-person talk) who are ratified participants but are not specifically addressed by the speaker; and those ratified participants who are addressed, that is, oriented to by the speaker in a manner to suggest that his words are particularly for them, and that some answer is therefore anticipated from them, more so than from the other ratified participants (Goffman 1981a: 9-10 – italics mine). Walter, then, in his behaviour in this opening phase, tries to justify himself as the participant that must be addressed, something to which Lindner seems to agree (eg: LINDNER: returning the main force to WALTER – l.36), casting the others as the ‘unaddressed ones’ (Goffman 1981b: 133). Nevertheless, Beneatha contests this, responding, before Walter does, either with a Question or a meaningful Acknowledgement: - Yes – and what do they do? (l.35) - Un – huh. (l.40) - Yes – and what are some of those? (l.43) - Yes. (l.50) In the last two cases Walter tries to impose on her and regain his status as the addressed participant with his Requests: 5 6 Girl, let the man talk. (l.44) An action labelled as ‘overhearing’ in Goffman (1981b: 132). An action labelled as ‘eavesdropping’ in Goffman (1981b: 132). 20
  25. 25. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status - Be still now! (l.51) He succeeds in doing so in line 78 when he is the first to pose a Question seeking clarification (What do you mean?). From then on Walter is the one clearly confronting Lindner, with Beneatha making two more moves (l.90, 98) that are connected but not clearly embodied in the conversation, as they are Informs not prospecting a second-part move. In the previous chapter Walter’s attempts to pass the floor to George were discussed, and it was suggested that he was trying to do so by creating many transition-relevance places in which George could take up the speech (p.11-2). By contrast, the conversational behaviour of Lindner, this scene’s main character, is the exact opposite. Trying to hold the floor in order to ‘explain the thing in his own way’ (l.45-6) Lindner employs sentential constructions that Sacks et al (1974: 709) regard as ‘the most interesting of the unit-types, because of the internally generated expansions of length they allow – and, in particular, allow before first possible completion places’. He therefore usually produces lengthy moves, such as the following: LINDNER: It is one of these community organisations set up to look after – oh, you know, things like block upkeep and special projects and we also have what we call our New Neighbours Orientation Committee…(l.32-4) This feature can account for the fact that while this and the previous episode examined have roughly the same number of moves (78-82) the present is much lengthier, extending over 119 lines, with the former extending over only the half – 66. Lindner is exploiting the sentential constructions, and Walter’s tolerance, since the latter chooses not to interrupt him as Beneatha does, in order to bring forward the reason of his visit. This is also the usual pattern of 21
  26. 26. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status conversations, since they ‘tend to begin with the topic which is the reason for the encounter and then move on to other topics’ (Coulthard 1985: 80). Nevertheless, despite this tactic and Lindner’s promise to ‘get right to the point’ (l.48), he starts talking in line 22 and does not disclose his main purpose until lines 88-9 and further (l.100-3), with a formal Inform, characterised by the impersonality of the pronouns used. Instead of saying ‘I-we do not want you to move to our neighbourhood’ he utters the ‘official’ ‘our association is prepared through the collective effort of our people, to buy the house from you at a financial gain to your family’. His difficulty in articulating his purpose and the embarrassment that this causes him are evident in his choice of politeness strategies and the number of ambivalent speech moves that he makes. A prominent feature in Lindner’s politeness is the use of ‘hedges’. Brown and Levinson (1987) consider hedges to function either as positive (pp116-7) or as negative politeness strategies (145ff). The distinction is not actually very clear, since they make the unfortunate choice of using the example of ‘sort of’ as hedging a predicate for both cases: Positive politeness: You really are sort of a loner, aren’t you? (p.117) Negative politeness: ‘A swing is a sort of a toy’ (p.143) In any case, hedges can have positive politeness since they ‘serve to avoid a precise communication of S’s attitude’ and the speaker can avoid being seen to disagree with the hearer (pp.116-7); or they may carry negative politeness by softening the assumptions connected to the conversation, not imposing on the hearer’s face (p.146). In the text we find ‘sort of’ (l.37, 38, 43), ‘I guess’ (l.37), ‘probably’ (l.56), ‘I think’ (l.59), ‘I mean’ (l.27, 37, 46), ‘now’ (l.93) and modals. 22
  27. 27. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status There is also the positive politeness strategy of ‘you know’ (l.33, 71) discussed earlier (p.13), the use of ‘I’m sure’ (l.48, 55) as a sign of optimism and positive politeness (Brown and Levinson 1987: 126), while ‘pessimism’ is employed as well, a negative politeness strategy (ibid: 173) in the form of ‘I don’t suppose’ (l.108). The frequent use of ‘well’ (in 15 out of 46 moves) can also be considered a hedge, but Schiffrin’s analysis of it seems to explicate more successfully what is happening in the text: Well is used with disagreements, denials, and insufficient answers – all responses which fail to show appreciation… Well shows the speaker’s aliveness to the need to accomplish coherence despite a temporary inability to contribute to the satisfaction of that need in a way fully consonant with the coherence options provided through the prior discourse (Schiffrin 1987: 116, 126). Lindner usually does not provide the answer expected and his speech is full of breaches that hold back the progress of the topic. The following passage is indicative of all the strategies mentioned above: LINDNER: Well – it’s what you might call a sort of welcoming committee, I guess. I mean they, we, I’m the chairman of the committee – go around and see the new people who move into the neighbourhood and sort of give them the lowdown on the way we do things out in Clybourne Park. (l.36-9, emphasis added) One final interesting case of Lindner’s use of politeness is found in lines 73-4 ‘Anybody can see that you are a nice family of folks, hard-working and honest I’m sure…’. This could be considered as Brown and Levinson’s (1987: 104) second positive politeness strategy ‘exaggerate interest, approval, with H’, but it is not their canonical case; especially the use of ‘I’m sure’, as it is placed finally, seems more like a hedged than an exaggerated expression of approval. I think that the purpose of this utterance can be better understood in relation to lines 82-3 ‘Now, I don’t say we are perfect and there is a lot wrong in some of 23
  28. 28. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status the things they want’, and the second parts of Leech’s (1983: 135-136) Approbation and Modesty Maxims: Minimize dispraise of other; Maximize praise of other. Minimize praise of self; Maximize dispraise of self. Hence, Lindner appears to praise the Youngers and dispraise the self – the community. Yet, as he has not actually maximised the praise for the Youngers by the use of ‘I’m sure’, equally, he does not maximise the dispraise of self. With the use of ‘now’, ‘some’, and ‘I don’t say we are…’ instead of the categorical ‘we are not’, he attempts to satisfy two ends; observance of the Maxims and at the same time, in a deeper level, maintenance of his positive face. Lindner makes seven Requests in this encounter and it is interesting to note that six of them are very close to Informs while the one left is not clearly articulated but merely a ‘please’ (l.54). From the six mentioned, five have in the subject position the speaker who is trying to make a Request which is not overtly face-threatening and, thus, converts these to an informs about his personal wishes. Nevertheless, they are moves perceived as Requests by his interlocutors as well, and in this, he is more successful than Walter, whose offrecord strategy towards George clearly failed (see p.13). Yet, the move causing the most problems of classification is the one following Walter’s unmitigated Request ‘Get out of my house, man’ (l.110): LINDNER:… What do you think you are going to gain by moving into a neighbourhood where you just aren’t wanted and where some elements – well – people can get awful worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened. (l.113-5) 24
  29. 29. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status At a first reading the move seems like a Question, in the grammatical form of wh-questions, prospecting an Inform, which will supply ‘the missing piece of information denoted by the wh-word’ (Tsui 1994: 72). Nevertheless, the absence of a question mark, possibly denoting a questioning intonation, and its lengthy elaborated formation suggest that what Lindner mainly wishes to communicate are the presuppositions following ‘where’, and the implications of threat that these presuppositions carry. Toolan (1997: 185) regards threats as ‘always implicitly or explicitly subordinate to some superordinate request… so threats are essentially requests, not offers’. More recently, admitting the existence of ‘free-standing threats’ which ‘are not so directly linked to an immediately preceding Request’ (Toolan 2000: 197n) he classifies them as Undertakings. It is not easy to determine the extent of the co-text the theory should allow, in which the preceding Request will be found. If only a few lines are considered, a preceding Request will not be found. Even a greater context will not provide us with a Request in this specific case, since Lindner is very cautious and makes his proposal as an Inform (l.100-2). On the other hand, the overall meaning and the reaction of the Youngers suggest that the Inform is actually an implicit Request, and the move under examination encompasses a reformulation of that Request. The situation becomes more complicated if a reading of the move as a warning is also considered. Warnings, in contrast to threats, are classified as Informs (Toolan 2000: 181). Tsui (1994: 133) distinguishes warnings from threats in the following way: A warning is performed in the interest of the addressee, whereas a threat is performed in the interest of the speaker himself. 25
  30. 30. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status Yet whose interest the move serves is unclear, since it can be paraphrased both ways (Warning – it is dangerous for you to move there… ; Threat – We-they-I7 don’t want you to move there, so don’t, or else…). Nevertheless, Lindner does not explicitly state the threat, nor commit himself on the certainty of his statement. Hence, I think it preferable to regard the move as an Inform, which has the hedging of a Question-wonder ‘Why do this?’, formulated in this way because of reasons of politeness and social discipline8. The episode ends with Lindner calling Walter ‘son’. It is intriguing to see that after the discomfort and, albeit covert, hostility that he has manifested, he chooses to close the encounter trying to soften the previous confrontation by this kin address form that claims in-group identity. Furthermore, as a response to Walter’s confident behaviour, he also tries to re-rank their social distance and, especially, power: when there is agreement about the normal address form to alters of specified statuses, then any deviation is a message (Ervin-Tripp 1972: 236). By calling him son, he claims in-group identity and the higher status of a father, an older man. If the race factor is also taken into consideration9 then this choice seems more face threatening towards a ‘black’ Walter, who is ‘spoken down’ by the ‘white’ Lindner. 7 It is interesting to see how Lindner obscures agency, shifting between these three pronouns – and the agentless passive – during all his moves. 8 An overt threat could possibly cause him and his committee a lawsuit – at least. 9 Cf. the well known example given by Dr. Poussaint , taken from his interaction with a white policeman: ‘What’s you name, boy?’ (quoted in Ervin-Tripp 1972:225). 26
  31. 31. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status Conclusion In this scene, Walter tries to act as ‘the man of the house’, a status which Beneatha refuses to acknowledge for about the first half of the episode. With her insightful moves, she is the first member of the family to confront Lindner and cause him unease. Thus, Beneatha claims her equal status in the family, with a behaviour consistent with her ‘feministic’ attitude and high aims – she plans to be a doctor – present throughout the play. Walter’s behaviour, during the first part, could, equally well, be interpreted as mature, waiting for Lindner to explain himself, instead of subordinate to Beneatha’s; very often an analysis can be interpreted in more than one, opposite ways. These two readings may be interfaced, saying that Walter is both being slightly more mature and, at the same time, overbalanced by Beneatha. Proof of the latter is the fact that he tries twice to regain a higher status by controlling her moves (l.44, 51) to succeed in his third effort (l.78). Thereafter, Walter acts as the representative of the family. Yet, the conversational maturity Walter exhibits is confined only in his patience to await for Lindner to disclose his purpose, and the way he briefly tries to re-rank the social distance and power between him and Lindner during the phase of phatic communion; he does not show a generalised equally acute conversational insight. In no case does he contest the constant techniques of agency deletion and obscuration that Lindner employs. Only once does he ask Lindner for clarification, after lines 76-7: LINDNER:… Today everybody knows what it means to be on the outside of something. And of course, there is always somebody who is out to take advantage of people who don’t always understand. WALTER: What do you mean? 27
  32. 32. Chapter 3: Indirectness and black-mail status But these lines are so overtly oblique and vague, that it would be strange for anyone not to seek clarification. Finally, Walter allows Lindner to have the last word in their encounter before he leaves the house. These indications suggest that, despite the fragments of maturity discussed, Walter does not exhibit particularly advanced conversational skills. 28
  33. 33. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news; ‘Man, Willy is gone’ After the turbulence that Lindner caused to the family, a state of equilibrium seems to be restored. Walter, Beneatha and Ruth explain to Mama the purpose of his visit. They then offer her gardening tools as a present, while Travis gives her a gardening hat; both are gifts that will be useful in their new house. The family is presented in a mood even merrier than the one they displayed before Lindner’s visit. When the doorbell rings, Walter, who is expecting his future business partners to bring him the news of their enterprise, opens the door. This is also the opening of the episode under examination (please see Appendix 3) which commences with the breaking of one of the ‘rules’ Laver has formulated for phatic communion. When one participant is static in space, and the other is moving towards him, in whatever type of physical locale, then, unless there are overriding special reasons, there seems to be a strong tendency, both in Britain and America, for the ‘incomer’ to initiate the exchange of phatic communion (Laver 1975: 226). Although Simpson (1989: 49) claims that the hypothesis and the reasons provided by Laver ‘seem a little speculative’, Walter appears to wait for Bobo to make the first move and to initiate phatic communion. After opening the door, he has kept singing for some lines, and he is obliged to make the first move in line 8, when Bobo remains silent. One of the explanations Laver offers to support his rule is that the incomer ‘declares in effect that his intentions are pacific, and offers a propitiatory token’ (Laver 1975: 226). Bobo has to inform Walter that all his money is lost and the announcement of ‘bad news’ is an act that by definition threatens the hearer’s positive face (Brown and Levinson 29
  34. 34. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news 1987: 67). Hence, his reluctance to engage in phatic communion, although a friend, can be regarded as an indication of this ‘hostile’ intention. This reversal of the norm and violation of the expectations Walter had are also suggested by the speech moves each participant makes. Table 3 (from l.8 ‘Where’s Willy, man?’) Informs Questions Walter 17 14 Bobo 26 1 Ruth 1 1 Requests 11 6 0 Undertakings 3 0 0 Total 45 33 2 81 Walter makes more moves; even if his final eleven moves are set aside because they are addressed to non-participants, still Walter has two more moves than Bobo. Furthermore – something that the table cannot show – Walter makes all the first turns although it is Bobo who comes with the news. The latter is supposed to be the important conversationalist, because of the information he is carrying, but it is Walter who is presented in a position of power, since, it is he who opens each stage of the conversation. This episode, up to line 45, has much in common with a stereotypical interrogation scene (if some features of familiarity between the interlocutors are overlooked) with the roles of interrogator and interrogated filled by Walter and Bobo, respectively. When the ‘interrogation’ begins, after the brief interval of phatic communion, in lines 10-13, Walter’s only moves are Questions and Requests for addressee action. On the other hand, Bobo’s moves are mostly Informs and three Requests for permission. Furthermore, Bobo appears to be uncooperative from the first moment. When Walter asks him in line 8 ‘Where’s Willy, man?’ Bobo states the obvious ‘He ain’t with me’ and flouts the maxim of Quantity, since his 30
  35. 35. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news contribution is less informative than requested. Walter could see by himself that Willy was not with Bobo and this was what motivated his question. His next move, after Walter’s Request in line 14, is a ‘challenging’ one, as he supplies ‘an unexpected and inappropriate Act where the expectation of another has been set up’ (Burton 1980: 151). Instead of answering Walter with an Inform, he makes a Request. The same pattern exists in his later replies in lines 22 and 2426, where he is trying to change the discourse topic from ‘the news’ to his money. Yet, when Bobo succeeds in getting Walter’s permission to talk about the money in line 27 (What about the money you put in?) only briefly does he seem to answer: BOBO: Well – it wasn’t much as we told you – me and Willy – (He stops.) I’m sorry, Walter. I got a bad feeling about it. I got a real bad feeling about it… (l.28-9) The last three moves are clearly violating the maxim of Relevance and thus are locally incoherent. Walter, at this point of the conversation, lacks the required shared knowledge in order to comprehend Bobo’s words. Equally uninformative and incoherent, although exhibiting lexical cohesion, is Bobo’s next move: WALTER: Tell me what happened in Springfield… BOBO: Springfield. (l.30-1) Bobo is merely repeating Walter’s last words, flouting once more the maxim of Quantity; his contribution does not offer any more information to his interlocutor, than what he already knew10. However, Walter does not seem to understand that there is an implicature conveyed by this flout. For two more exchanges Bobo fails to give Walter the information that he needs. In line 41, he 10 It gives Ruth the opportunity to learn about Springfield, but once more, she is an unaddressed participant in this interaction. 31
  36. 36. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news flouts the maxim of Relevance and in line 43 he flouts the maxims of Quality and Manner, providing again less information, and in an obscure way. Walter finally succeeds in ‘breaking’ Bobo’s resistance and learns the bad news in line 46 (Willy didn’t never show up). Bobo’s next turn taking in lines 48-52, for the first time in the scene, violates the Quantity maxim by giving more information than required. This signals the end of the ‘interrogation’ and introduces a crucial change in Walter’s conversational behaviour that will be discussed later. The fact that Bobo, although actually superior in being the knower (Toolan 2000: 185), is behaving as subordinate in this scene, is also suggested by his politeness strategies. His Request in line 17 is done with negative politeness: the pessimism expressed by the modal ‘could’ (Brown and Levinson 1987: 173) and the use of ‘please’. This seems an excessive use of politeness between friends for a request as minimal as ‘a drink of water’. Yet, it can be justified for two reasons; Bobo considers the imposition to be greater, because it delays the announcement of the news Walter is so eager to hear. Secondly, Bobo is about to deliver bad news, so his presence and information will be considered to impose on Walter’s negative face. This is what Bobo actually regards as significant and in this context, he reclassifies their social distance as greater and, accordingly, the request for water as an FTA of larger imposition. For the same reasons his next Requests are also presented in the form of Informs about him having an obligation to do something, following an Inform that presupposes shared knowledge and thus claims ‘common ground’ (Brown and Levinson 1987: 103): BOBO: You know how it was. I got to tell you how it was. I mean first I got to tell you how it was all the way… (l.25) 32
  37. 37. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news It is interesting to see that Bobo refers to his topic, the money, passing through three formulations which gradually become lengthier/longer. This structure reminds one of Jakobson’s (1971: 352) remarks that Morphology is rich in examples of alternate signs which exhibit an equivalent relation between their signantia and signata. Thus, in various Indo-European languages, the positive, comparative, and superlative degrees of adjectives show a gradual increase in the number of phonemes, e.g., high-higher-highest, altus-altioraltissimus. In this way the signantia reflect the gradation gamut of the signata. The more Bobo is trying to succeed in his request, the larger this becomes. Walter’s conversational power over his interlocutor is also suggested in his two Questions in lines 21 and 23: - There ain’t nothing wrong, is there? - Man – didn’t nothing go wrong? Fairclough, in his discussion of tag and negative questions, says: Using negative questions is sometimes... like saying ‘I assume that X is the case, but you seem to be suggesting it isn’t; surely it is?… we can say that power in discourse is to do with powerful participants controlling and constraining the contributions of nonpowerful participants (Fairclough 1989: 46). Walter holds this power until line 52, when he finally learns the truth ‘Man, Willy is gone’. Bobo for the first time in this scene does not violate the cooperative principle, since he observes all the maxims; he really does not know where Willy is and his contribution is ‘such as is required’ (Grice 1975: 45). Nevertheless, Walter is now trying to find an implicature: WALTER: (a) Gone, what do you mean Willy is gone? (b) Gone where? (c) You mean he went by himself. (d) You mean he went off to Springfield by himself – to take care of getting the licence – (Turns and looks anxiously at RUTH.) (e) You mean maybe he didn’t want too many people in on the business down there? (Looks back to BOBO.) (f) Maybe you was late yesterday and he just went on down there without you. (g) Maybe – maybe – he’s 33
  38. 38. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news been callin’ you at home tryin’ to tell you what happened or something. (h) Maybe – maybe – he just got sick. (i) He’s somewhere – (j) he’s got to be somewhere. (k) We just got to find him – (l) me and you got to find him… (m) We got to! (letters added) Walter’s Informs (c, d, e, f) are statements about B-events, according to Labov’s classification: Given any two-party conversation, there exists an understanding that there are events that A knows about, but B does not; and events that B knows about but A does not; and AB-events that are known to both... If A makes a statement about a B-event, it is heard as a request for confirmation (Labov 1972a: 124). His next moves (g, h, i, j) are statements about what could be called ‘C-events’, since neither of the two members has any knowledge about them. Labov and Fanshel introduce the class of D-events, Disputable events, and state the rule of Disputable Assertions: If A makes an assertion about a D-event, it is heard as a request for B to give an evaluation of that assertion (Labov and Fanshel 1977: 101). Yet, the term C-event is preferred, because Walter does not seem to anticipate some kind of evaluation from Bobo, and makes mere speculations. In his effort to find a reasonable explanation, Walter violates the Quality maxim, in g and h saying something for which he lacks evidence, while in i and j he flouts the Quantity maxim, stating the obvious; everyone is somewhere, but what he wishes to implicate is overtly stated in k, l and m. These last moves are interesting in that, according to the framework employed, they are intermediate. They imply ‘shared action and mutual benefit, and by those considerations are both Requests and Undertakings’ (Toolan 2000: 180n). A similar case was discussed in page 13 (Walter to George: we ought to sit down and talk sometimes) but it was characterised as a Request, since it was 34
  39. 39. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news actually in Walter’s interest. Nevertheless, the moves under examination will profit both participants, as both lost their money. This also justifies the use of a more committing deontic modality (got to) instead of the weaker modality of ‘ought to’. After this large turn of talk, Bobo makes his first initiating move ‘What’s the matter with you, Walter?’ (l.62). This is a Request similar to those discussed in page 15, made by Ruth, when Walter was behaving like a disobedient child. Walter here also appears out of control and then engages in a long stretch of talk. It is Walter’s turn, at this time, to make four Requests in order of gradual augmentation already noted for Bobo: WALTER: don’t do it… Please don’t do it… Man, not with that money… Man, please, not with that money… (l.65) But it is doubtful whether the moves can be considered as goal directed. His moves addressed to Willy are obviously ineffectual, since Willy cannot hear him. His prayers, too, could be regarded equally useless to the judgement of an atheist. Nevertheless, these moves, albeit not communicatives at the level of the discourse of the play, can be considered to ‘become messages about the character at the level of discourse which pertains between author and reader/audience’ (Short 1989: 149). In the light of this, the passage functions to delineate Walter’s transformation from an interrogator to a desperate child who thinks aloud, talking to himself. Conclusion It is interesting to see that the patience exhibited by Walter in respect to Lindner (the previous scene examined), vanishes in this scene. This may be 35
  40. 40. Chapter 4: Breaking and hearing bad news explained by the fact that Walter is so anxious to hear the news, which will change his life, that he does not have the self-control to be patient. Nevertheless, Bobo is a friend – at least more than Lindner, a total stranger – and it is quite striking for Walter to act as an interrogator towards Bobo and impose on him in that way. Yet, even in his role as an interrogator Walter does not seem to be totally successful, in getting a clear ‘confession’ from Bobo: BOBO: That’s what I’m trying to tell you… I don’t know… I waited six hours… I called his house… and I waited… six hours… I waited in that train station six hours… (breaking into tears.) That was all the extra money I had in the world… Looking up at WALTER with tears running down his face. Man, Willy is gone. Of course, the truth can be recovered from the above words ‘Willy is gone with our money’, but it is not directly stated. The scene closes with a devastated Walter, who starts speculating to end up in a soliloquy typical of child behaviour or of mentally ill people. To ‘think aloud’ is a phase through which all people pass in their early childhood. But when met in adults, this behaviour is considered as a sign of mental disorder. So, the ending of this scene presents Walter having regressed from whichever maturity he exhibited in the previous scene. 36
  41. 41. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference Chapter 5: Self identity and inference; ‘My father almost beat a man to death…’ The final episode to be examined (please refer to Appendix 4) takes place only a few lines before the end of the play. After Walter has learned that all the money he intended to invest in the liquor store is lost, he calls Lindner back in order to accept his offer and, thus, balance the financial loss caused by his failed plans. But, the other members of the family do not agree with his decision when he announces it to them and a very tense and emotional scene ensues, where Walter mimics ‘an Uncle Tom… complete with grotesque dialect and gestures’ (Washington 1988: 122) and Beneatha denounces him, while Mama deplores her children’s behaviour. All these precede Lindner’s appearance in the doorway. The primary speech moves made by each participant are the following: Table 4 Walter Lindner Mama Ruth Beneatha Informs 17 11 4 1 1 Questions 1 2 0 0 0 Requests 0 1 7 1 0 Undertakings 0 0 0 0 0 Total 18 14 11 2 1 46 In contrast to his first visit, Lindner has been invited by Walter and thus Walter is expected to give the reasons initiating the present encounter. This partially justifies the fact that Walter makes more moves than his other interlocutors, who implicitly give him permission to declare those reasons. Nevertheless, the main participants seem to have equal conversational rights in this meeting, judging from the number of their moves. In the first visit, the three main participants (Lindner, Walter, Ruth) had 40, 20, 12 moves respectively 37
  42. 42. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference (see p.18). In this episode the number of the moves made by Walter, Lindner and Mama are more equal (18, 14, 11). Beneatha makes only one move, something that is interesting compared with her conversational behaviour previously. Ruth, the least participating member in the previous conversations, makes two moves, only one more than Beneatha, both of which are placed in the opening phase of the meeting. Lindner’s first attempts to engage in interaction are unsuccessful. His Inform in line 4 is the first part of an adjacency pair of greeting that is left unanswered. Sacks argues that the ‘absence of the second [part in an adjacency pair] is noticeable and noticed’ and offers examples of people’s complaints such as ‘I said hello, and she just walked past’ (reported in Coulthard 1985: 70). Lindner’s two Questions in lines 14, 15 are also without response. Ruth’s and Mama’s following stretches of talk (l.18-25), are addressed to Travis and Walter, and the latter is the first to address Lindner directly, in line 28. From then on and until line 60, where Walter withdraws from the conversation, Lindner’s moves are either Acknowledgements to Walter (l. 31, 34, 38, 51), or attempts at Informs that are disrupted by Walter (l.42, 47). His second move, after Walter has withdrawn from the conversation, is a Request addressed to Mama ‘Then I would like to appeal to you, Mrs Younger…’ (l.62). This is done with what Leech calls a ‘self-reporting utterance’ which is the case where the speaker uses the metalanguage of speech-act verbs for describing his own discourse (Leech 1983: 225-6). Having failed with Walter, Lindner turns to Mama and explicitly states his Request in an attempt to convince her. 38
  43. 43. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference In his previous visit, Lindner’s final word was the address form ‘son’ directed to Walter. In this episode, while Lindner feels that his aims will succeed, he addresses Walter as ‘Mr Younger’, paying respect to a distant yet equal interlocutor as Brown and Ford (1964: 241) note: ‘adults of equal status [begin their encounter] with Mutual Title plus Last Name’. This is the same form of address used for Mama as seen in the previous paragraph. But it is interesting to note that once more, when his expectations are defeated, he addresses the Youngers collectively, as ‘you people’, in an Inform similar, albeit more vague, to the one discussed in pages 24-26. I sure hope you people know what you’re getting into. (l.69-70) Lindner again chooses to communicate his warning through the presuppositions of the subordinate clause. He presupposes that the family is ‘getting into’ something, which certainly is not their new house. He flouts the Quantity and the Manner Maxims since he gives less information than needed in an obscure way. The ‘something’ the family is getting into is not clearly stated. It may allude to a previous presupposition that ‘people can get awful worked up…’ (p.24), which was equally under-informative. In both meetings, when Lindner sees the (to him) undesirable decision of the Youngers he retreats into Informs charged with implicatures of warning-threat. Walter’s conversational behaviour can be divided in two stages. In the first one (l. 28-46) his talk abounds with the use of ‘well’ and ‘I mean’. Both have been discussed in the analysis of the previous encounter between Walter and Lindner, where they were features of Lindner’s talk. As a reminder, it is sufficient to say that ‘well’ was characterised as a marker of temporal inability of the speaker to proceed entirely unproblematically in the expected coherent 39
  44. 44. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference way (p.23), and ‘I mean’ was characterised as a hedge indicating politeness (p.14). The second stage (l. 52-68) is where Walter manages to utter, in a categorical way, the decision of his family to move to the new house. Walter’s moves can be better understood, if they are examined in isolation from the rest of the text – in example, that is separated from Lindner’s moves and the playwright’s comments: WALTER: Well, Mr Lindner. We called you – because, well, me and my family – well – we are very plain people – I mean – I have worked as a chauffeur most of my life – and my wife here, she does domestic work in people’s kitchens. So does my mother. I mean – we are plain people. And – uh – well, my father, well – he was a labourer most of his life – And my father – My father almost beat a man to death once because this man called him a bad name or something. You know what I mean? What I mean to say is that we come from people who had a lot of pride. I mean – we are very proud people. And that’s my sister over there and she’s going to be a doctor – and we are very proud – What I am telling you is that we called you over here to tell you that we are very proud and that this – this is my son, and he makes the sixht generation of our family in this country, and we have all thought about you offer – And we have decided to move into our house – because my father – my father – he earned it for us, brick by brick. We don’t want to make no trouble for nobody or fight no causes – but we will try to be good neighbours. That’s all we got to say. We don’t want your money. This could be considered as a narrative, with a ‘minimal narrative’ (Labov 1972b: 360) embedded at the heart of it, the highlighted text. Yet as a narrative, it has two uncommon characteristics. First, the great extent of the Orientation, which functions, among other things, to identify the persons involved in the narrative (Labov 1972b: 364). Walter commences the narration with a ‘we’ which he then explicates, by referring not only to the people involved but their occupation as well.: 40
  45. 45. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference Me (Walter) Wife Mother Father Sister Son Chauffeur Domestic work Domestic work Labourer Future doctor Sixth generation in the country Only after he has mentioned each member of the family does he proceed in the Complicating action and the Resolution, found in the minimal narrative. His last two moves can be considered as a very definite Coda ‘that’s all we got to say’ and the abstract, stating ‘what the narrative is about [and] why it was told’ (Labov 1972b: 370) ‘we don’t want your money’. Second, it is a strange narrative, in that it is about what is going to happen, and not a recapitulation of past experience. Although its minimal narrative is placed in the past, it actually looks to the future, as the decision taken is a decision concerning future action, the expression of an attempt to shape and control it. Walter’s reference to his sister is also a future defining one, ‘she’s going to be a doctor’. For this reason, it may be better to perceive his talk as a speech, a declaration of some sort. The declaration of future acts concerning the family and Beneatha are already mentioned. The part that precedes the underlined text has two main recurrent themes; ‘we are plain people’ and ‘we are very proud’. Walter tries to establish an identity for the family, which will support and justify their decision to move into the house. This identity is gradually built up, through the four stages Walter passes: i) the humble ‘we are very plain people’ ii) the less humble ‘we are plain people’ iii) the more proud ‘we come from people who had a lot of pride’ iv) the desired, mentioned thrice ‘we are very proud’ 41
  46. 46. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference Thus, Walter here declares the identity his family claims for itself and the right of controlling their future. Whether Walter’s utterances are labelled as a narrative or, for preference, a ‘declaration’, they constitute a monologue. In contrast to that, Lindner’s moves in lines 31, 34, 38, 51 which were characterised as Acknowledgements, secondary moves, can be reclassified as ‘back-channel cues’. These are ‘providing a clear signal that understanding and sympathy have followed this far’ (Goffman 1981a: 28). Yet, these back-channel cues do not belong to the canonical category, since Lindner is making them only in order to counterbalance his lack of attention, which is turned to the contract, and they do not express genuine interest to Walter. This is what impels Walter to flout the Relevance Maxim in lines 40-1 ‘My father almost beat a man to death once, because this man called him a bad name or something’ – an actual narrative. Walter is still in the opening, whether it is an Orientation or an introduction, offering information about the members of his family, who collectively took the decision. Yet, his father is dead and therefore, the mention of him is irrelevant. Lindner has to comprehend the implicature through inference, trying to make sense ‘of the motivations, goals plans and reasons of participants in [the] described events’ (Brown and Yule 1983: 268). Walter’s Inform about his father is connected with the implications of racism that Lindner’s proposal bears; the Youngers are not welcome to the new neighbourhood because they are black, a feature that is considered a negative attribute in the context of Lindner’s talk. Insinuating that someone is unwelcome because s/he is black is like calling him/her a bad name; both are 42
  47. 47. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference insulting, Informs that threat the positive face of the hearer. Thus, Walter may warn Lindner not to insult them, implicating that in the opposite case he may also ‘beat someone to death’ (in this case Lindner), like his father almost did; it is not possible to know whether he actually means it or not – and his father case is presented as an extreme reaction – but Walter wishes to communicate the warning. Nevertheless, the implicature is weak and the inference requested quite elaborate, so that someone can claim not to have understood the connections between this Inform and its context. This is the choice Lindner overtly makes, although the playwright’s comment indicates that he has understood the deeper meaning (l.41-2): WALTER … You know what I mean? LINDNER (looking up, frozen): No, no, I’m afraid I don’t – Mama’s moves confirm her status as the head of the family. Out of eleven moves, seven are Requests directed to three different people – Travis, Walter and Lindner. Her final Request, addressed to Lindner is interesting because of its form ‘Goodbye’ (l.66). Schegloff and Sacks, discussing the ways followed for the termination of a conversation, refer to the existence of a range of ways… which make drastic difference between one party saying ‘good-bye’ and not leaving a slot for the other to reply, and one party saying ‘good-bye’ and leaving a slot for the other to reply. The former becomes a distinct sort of activity, expressing anger, brusqueness, and the like, and available to such a use by contrast with the latter (Schegloff and Sacks 1973: 298). Hence, Mama’s move is not an Inform of good disposition, part of phatic communion, but more like an Inform that she wishes the termination of the discussion. For this reason, it is considered as a Request for Lindner to leave their house. 43
  48. 48. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference From her Requests addressed to Walter, the two final have a strange character: - You show where our five generations done come to. (l.23) - Go ahead, son. (l.25) It is not their nature as Requests that causes the problem, but their function in the dialogue. Mama is opposed to Walter’s plans of selling the house and she wishes Walter to take full responsibility for his actions. For this reason, she asks Travis to stay there, in order to witness and understand what his father is doing. She seems to believe that if Walter is to proceed with his plan, his son should comprehend the meaning of his father’s actions. Yet, these two final Requests are not Requests for Travis to stay, or for Walter to change his mind, but for the latter to complete the transaction. In these two Requests Mama is shown agreeing with Walter’s decision, while the audience/reader and the characters, as well, know that this is not true – note the description of Mama ‘…but she is implacable’ (l.22). So, these Requests can be considered as having an ironical function, which aims to deter Walter from going on with his plan, although at first sight they seem to encourage him. This is why it was suggested that their characterisation as Requests is unproblematic; independently of whether they are read as supporting or challenging Walter’s decision, they express a Request that Walter should or should not do something. As this episode is the last of the four analysed, it seems preferable to avoid presenting an isolated conclusion, discussing the conversational behaviour exhibited by the characters and mainly Walter, similar to those of the previous episodes. This is the final and most decisive part of the course set in the 44
  49. 49. Chapter 5: Self identity and inference introduction of the dissertation in order to answer the question posed in page 2 ‘Is the observation that Walter has come into his manhood justified in terms of the conversational behaviour he exhibits?’. For this reason, its discussion is made in the conclusion, in relation to all the preceding episodes. 45
  50. 50. Chapter 6: Conclusion Chapter 6: Conclusion The analysis of the first episode delineates an aggressive Walter who seems to have as his sole conversational aim to insult George Murchison. It was noted that many features of the conversation indicate childish behaviour on his part. His wife, Ruth, tries to control him with Requests usually employed to control disobedient children. His reluctance to be obedient and his stubbornness in continuing to utter insults, deriving from his jealousy of George, were also considered as elements of conversational childhood. The second episode presents some indications of change. Walter attempts to interact as an equal with Karl Lindner and, finally, manages to overrule Beneatha’s mutiny. Yet, this progress is not total, since Walter prefers not to challenge Lindner’s moves, or does not manage to, and gives him the opportunity of ending the encounter in his own way with the highly elaborate threat that he uses (see p.24ff). Unfortunately for Walter, all the progress he exhibited in the previous episode perishes in the third, where he regresses once more to a child-like, not to say mentally ill, behaviour. Walter questions Bobo in a very strict, yet unsuccessful way and he does not exhibit the strength of coping with the announcement of bad news. He is devastated by it and this is clearly shown in the placatory soliloquy at the end of the play. The examination of the fourth episode shows yet another shift in his conversational behaviour. Walter initiated the interaction with Lindner, both by being the one who had call him to the house and the one who first addresses him directly. He clearly states the decision that the family has taken ‘we don’t want 46
  51. 51. Chapter 6: Conclusion your money’, after his attempt of defining their self identity as that of ‘very proud people’. This is what has led both the characters in the play, namely Mama and Ruth, and many literary critics to recognise in this episode a ‘rite of passage’, the coming into manhood for Walter. Of course, it is difficult to deny the importance of Walter’s decision not to proceed with this plan of selling the house and the dimension of ‘nobility’ or ‘manhood’ that this move carries. Nevertheless, I wish to argue that this ‘coming into his manhood’ (Abramson 1967: 252) is not all that clear and complete or unqualified, at least conversationally, for many reasons. First of all, Walter delays the announcement of the actual reason why he has called Lindner until the end of his talk11, after which he withdraws from the conversation. His preceding attempts at establishing a self identity were also a way of trying to delay the utterance of the rejection and to formulate it in a more effective way. And Walter’s withdrawal from the conversation is quite interesting. The ‘increase in the distance between participants’ (Laver 1975: 229) is one of the features Laver recognises as parts of the closing phase of interaction. By this means, Walter wishes to communicate that his interaction with Lindner is completed and that they do not have anything else to discuss, without stating it linguistically. Yet he is unsuccessful, as Lindner rejects the closing and chooses to address other participants in order to achieve his goals. The fact that the main speaker, Walter, expresses his wish to end the conversation does not deter 11 This delay could also be explained as a means of creating dramatic tension. Nevertheless, the analyst has to work with the textual evidence; how the characters are presented to move and interact in the play. If one starts making speculations about the intentions of the playwright and explaining the play in terms of dramaturgy, then, there is no stopping. After all, everything in the play aims to its performance. 47
  52. 52. Chapter 6: Conclusion Lindner from attempting to continue it. And when that happens, Walter does not re-enter the conversation in order to end it in a more definite way. Instead, it is Beneatha and Mama – note her ‘Goodbye’ already discussed in page 43 – that reaffirm the validity of the decision to move to the house and close the encounter. Walter does not even react to Lindner’s final Inform/warning (page 39). So, in respect to Lindner, Walter’s authority is not entirely self-derived but dependent, at least in part, on the support of the other members of his family. It is mainly Mama, with her words12, that raises Walter to ‘the head of the family’ and brings him into manhood, rather than his own conversational behaviour. Furthermore, another feature of that episode points toward that direction, Mama’s two Requests addressed to Walter, discussed in page 44. Walter reaches to his decision of not selling the house, pushed by his mother’s ironic Requests – although it is difficult to say the exact effect they had on him. His preference was to sell the house and this is why he had called Lindner, but it seems that the pressure applied by his mother finally changed his plans. Having said the above, a change in Walter’s conversational behaviour and status, still, is noted. No matter in what way, he does reject Lindner’s proposal in a definite Inform, ‘we don’t want your money’. Furthermore, he manages, at least, to win the support of the family and the co-operation of its members. This is more clearly observed in the character of Beneatha who was 12 MAMA (with a wave of dismissal): I am afraid you don’t understand. My son said we was going to move and there ain’t nothing left for me to say. You know how these young folks is nowadays, mister. Can’t do a thing with’em! (As he opens his mouth, she rises.) Goodbye. 48
  53. 53. Chapter 6: Conclusion constantly challenging his authority throughout the play, but decides to support him at this crucial moment. The stages through which Walter passes can be observed in the following scheme, which presents the most general characterisation of his behaviour in each episode: Man: Ep.4 Ep.2 Child: Ep.1 Ep.3 In episodes 1 and 3 Walter is mainly behaving as a child, while his more mature behaviour in episode 2 is reduced by its partiality. In the light of this, Walter surely acts in a more mature way in episode 4. Still, this should not be regarded as the conversational maturity and competence that ‘manhood’ entails, but only an indication that something has changed in Walter’s way of interaction. This notion of ‘manhood’ may seem inflated and old-fashioned; and in my view that is precisely what it is. But it is the view of manhood taken by working class families such as the Youngers, in America in the 1940’s and 1950’s, long before the feministic movement flourished. So, as an answer to the question posed, it can be said that the observation of Walter coming into manhood is not totally justified, nor totally deniable. There is a progress in the behaviour he exhibits from the first episode to the fourth. Yet, this progress is not without variations, in fact regression was also noticed; his withdrawal from the conversation and his family support, as well, confirm that the final state of his character, is not as clear cut as suggested 49
  54. 54. Chapter 6: Conclusion and a black and white distinction between childhood and manhood are not applicable. Other elements of the play could also be examined; especially a taxonomy of Informs seems to promise a better understanding of the nature of interaction, but the limited extent of a short dissertation does not allow further dwelling on these moves. Still, the worth of this paper, if any, is the suggestion that different disciplines within linguistics may be combined in a strategic reading of a literary text, which can highlight elements that may elude the attention of a reading less aware of the linguistic properties of that text. 50
  55. 55. Appendix 1 Appendix 1: Walter and George (Act 2, Scene 1) WALTER enters. We feel he has relieved himself, but the edge of unreality is still with him. WALTER: New York ain’t got nothing Chicago ain’t. Just a bunch of hustling people all squeezed up together – being ‘Eastern’. 5 He turns his face into a screw of displeasure. GEORGE: Oh – you’ve been? WALTER: Plenty of times. RUTH (shocked at the lie): Walter Lee Younger! WALTER (staring her down): Plenty! (pause). What we got to drink in this house? Why don’t you 10 offer this man some refreshment. (to GEORGE:) They don’t know how to entertain people in this house, man. GEORGE: Thank you – I don’t really care for anything. WALTER ( feeling his head; sobriety coming): Where’s Mama? RUTH: She ain’t come back yet. 15 WALTER (looking MURCHISON over from head to toe, scrutinizing his carefully casual tweed sports jacket over cashmere V-neck sweater over soft eyelet shirt and tie, and soft slacks, finished off with white buckskin shoes): Why all you college boys wear them faggoty-looking white shoes? RUTH: Walter Lee! GEORGE MURCHISON ignores the remark. 20 WALTER (to RUTH): Well, they look crazy as hell – white shoes, cold as it is. RUTH (crushed): You have to excuse him – WALTER: No he don’t! Excuse me for what? What you always excusing me for! I’ll excuse myself when I needs to be excused! (a pause). They look as funny as them black knee socks Beneatha wears out of here all the time. 25 RUTH: It’s the college style Walter. WALTER: Style, hell. She looks like she got burnt legs or something! RUTH: Oh, Walter – WALTER (an irritable mimic): Oh, Walter! Oh, Walter! (to MURCHISON:) How’s your old man making out? I understand you all going to buy that big hotel on the Drive? (he finds a beer in the 30 refrigerator, wanders over to MURCHISON, sipping and wiping his lips with the back of his hand, and straddling a chair backwards to talk to the other man) Shrewd move. Your old man is all right, man. (tapping his head and half winking for emphasis). I mean he knows how to operate. I mean he thinks big, you know what I mean, I mean for a home, you know? But I think he’s kind of running out of ideas now. I’d like to talk to him. Listen, man, I got some plans that could turn this city 35 upside down. I mean I think like he does. Big. Invest big, gamble big, hell, lose big if you have to, you know what I mean. It’s hard to find a man on this whole Southside who understands my kind of thinking – you dig? (he scrutinizes MURCHISON again, drinks his beer, squints his eyes and leans in close, confidential, man to man) Me and you ought to sit down and talk sometimes, man. Man, I got me some ideas… 40 GEORGE (with boredom): Yeah – sometimes we’ll have to do that, Walter. 51
  56. 56. Appendix 1 WALTER (understanding the indifference, and offended): Yeah – well, when you get the time, man. I know you a busy little boy. RUTH: Walter, please – WALTER (bitterly, hurt): I know ain’t nothing in this world as busy as you coloured college boys with 45 your fraternity pins and white shoes… RUTH (covering her face with humiliation): Oh, Walter Lee – WALTER: I see you all all the time – with the books tucked under your arms – going to you (British A – a mimic) ‘clahsses’. And for what! What the hell you learning over there? Filling up your heads – (counting off on his fingers) – with the sociology and the psychology – but they teaching you how 50 to be a man? How to take over and run the world? They teaching you how to run a rubber plantation or a steel mill? Naw – just to talk proper and read books and wear them faggoty-looking white shoes… GEORGE (looking at him with distaste, a little above it all): You’re all wacked up with bitterness, man. 55 WALTER (intently, almost quietly, between the teeth, glaring at the boy): And you – ain’t you bitter, man? Ain’t you just about had it yet? Don’t you see no stars gleaming that you can’t reach out and grab? You happy? – You contended son-of-a-bitch – you happy? You got it made? Bitter? Here I am a volcano. Bitter? Here I am a giant – surrounded by ants! Ants who can’t even understand what it is the giant is talking about. 60 RUTH (passionately and suddenly): Oh, Walter – ain’t you with nobody! WALTER (violently): No! ’Cause ain’t nobody with me. Not even my own mother! RUTH: Walter, that’s a terrible thing to say! ……………………….. GEORGE: Thanks. Good night. (to WALTER) Good night (sarcastically) Prometheus. 65 WALTER (in fury, pointing after GEORGE): See there – they get to a point where they can’t insult you man to man – they got to talk about something ain’t nobody never heard of! 52
  57. 57. Appendix 2 Appendix 2: First meeting with Lindner (Act 2, Scene 3) MAN: Uh – how do you do, miss. I am looking for a Mrs – (he looks at the slip of paper.) Mrs Lena Younger? BENEATHA (smoothing her hair with slight embarrassment): Oh – yes, that’s my mother. Excuse me. 5 (She closes the door and turns to quiet the other two) Ruth! Brother! Somebody’s here. Then she opens the door. The man casts a curious quick glance at all of them. Uh – come in please. MAN (coming in): Thank you. BENEATHA: My mother isn’t here just now. Is it business? MAN: Yes… well, of a sort. 10 WALTER (freely, the Man of the House): Have a seat. I’m Mrs Younger’s son. I look after most of her business matters. RUTH and BENEATHA exchange amused glances MAN (regarding WALTER, and sitting): Well – My name is Karl Lindner… WALTER (stretching out his hand): Walter Younger. This is my wife – (RUTH nods politely.) – and 15 my sister. LINDNER: How do you do. WALTER (amiably, as he sits himself easily on a chair, leaning with interest forward on his knees and looking expectantly into the newcomer’s face): What can we do for you, Mr Lindner! LINDNER (some minor shuffling of the hat and briefcase on his knees): Well – I am a representative of 20 the Clybourne Park Improvement Association – WALTER (pointing): Why don’t you sit your things on the floor? LINDNER: Oh – yes. Thank you. (He slides the briefcase and hat under the chair) And as I was saying – I am from the Clybourne Park Improvement Association and we have had it brought to our attention at the last meeting that you people – or at least your mother – has bought a piece of 25 residential property at – (He digs for the slip of paper again.) – four o six Clybourne Street… WALTER: That’s right. Care for something to drink? Ruth, get Mr Lindner a beer. LINDNER (upset for some reason): Oh – no, really. I mean thank you very much, but no thank you. RUTH (innocently): Some coffee? LINDNER: Thank you, nothing at all. 30 BENEATHA is watching the man carefully. LINDNER: Well, I don’t know how much you folks know about our organisation. (He is a gentle man; thoughtful and somewhat laboured in his manner) It is one of these community organisations set up to look after – oh, you know, things like block upkeep and special projects and we also have what we call our New Neighbours Orientation Committee… 35 BENEATHA (drily): Yes – and what do they do? LINDNER (turning a little to her and then returning the main force to WALTER): Well – it’s what you might call a sort of welcoming committee, I guess. I mean they, we, I’m the chairman of the committee – go around and see the new people who move into the neighbourhood and sort of give them the lowdown on the way we do things out in Clybourne Park. 40 BENEATHA (with appreciation of the two meanings, which escape RUTH and WALTER): Un-huh. 53
  58. 58. Appendix 2 LINDNER: And we also have the category of what the association calls – (He looks elsewhere.) – uh – special community problems… BENEATHA: Yes – and what are some of those? WALTER: Girl, let the man talk. 45 LINDNER (with understated relief): Thank you. I would sort of like to explain this thing in my own way. I mean I want to explain to you in a certain way. WALTER: Go ahead. LINDNER: Yes. Well. I’m going to get right to the point. I’m sure we’ll all appreciate that in the long run. 50 BENEATHA: Yes. WALTER: Be still now! LINDNER: Well – – RUTH (still innocently): Would you like another chair – you don’t look comfortable. LINDNER (more frustrated than annoyed): No, thank you very much. Please. Well – to get right to the 55 point I – (A great breath, and he is off at last.) I am sure you people must be aware of some of the incidents – bombings and ugliness and, well, you probably know better than I – which have happened in various parts of the city when coloured people have moved into certain areas – (BENEATHA exhales heavily and starts tossing a piece of fruit up and down in the air) Well – because we have what I think is going to be a unique type of organisation in American community 60 life – not only do we deplore that kind of thing – but we are trying to do something about it. (BENEATHA stops tossing and turns with a new and quizzical interest to the man.) We feel – (Gaining confidence in his mission because of the interest in the faces of the people he is talking to.) – we feel that most of the trouble in this world, when you come right down to it – (He hits his knee for emphasis) – most of the trouble exists because people just don’t sit down and talk to each other. 65 RUTH (nodding as she might in church, pleased with the remark): You can say that again, mister. LINDNER (more encouraged by such affirmation): That we don’t try hard enough in this world to understand the other fellow’s problem. The other guy’s point of view. RUTH: Now that’s right. BENEATHA and WALTER merely watch and listen with genuine interest. 70 LINDNER: Yes – that’s the way we feel out in Clybourne Park. And that’s why I was elected to come here this afternoon and talk to you people. Friendly like, you know, the way people should talk to each other and see if we couldn’t find some way to work this thing out. As I say, the whole business is a matter of caring about the other fellow. Anybody can see that you are a nice family of folks, hard-working and honest I’m sure. 75 BENEATHA frowns slightly, quizzically, her head tilted regarding him. Today everybody knows what it means to be on the outside of something. And of course, there is always somebody who is out to take advantage of people who don’t always understand. WALTER: What do you mean? LINDNER: Well – you see our community is made up of people who’ve worked hard as the dickens 80 for years to build up that little community. They’re not rich and fancy people; just hard-working, 54

×