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A Man's a Man


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AT: Man Is Man; Man Equals Man A: Bertolt Brecht Pf: 1926, Darmstadt Pb: 1927; rev. 1957 Tr: 1961 G: Com. in 11 scenes; German prose with songs S: India, 1925 C: 8m, 2f, extrasGaly Gay is a simple Irish porter, who goes out one day to buy a fish. A British machine-gun squad mounting a raid on a pagoda loses one of its men, Jeraiah Jip, and the soldiers, terrified of the anger of their sergeant Charles Fairchild (‘Bloody Five’), persuade Galy Gay to take Jip's place at roll-call. When the wily priest of the pagoda refuses to release the captured soldier, the men have to transform the mild Galy Gay into a brutal killer. He is persuaded to pretend not to know his wife when she comes looking for him, and he helps to prepare for departure by dismantling Widow Begbick's mobile canteen, while she sings that although ‘a man's a man’, one can dismantle him and reassemble him like a car. In order to fully ensnare Galy Gay, the soldiers induce him to auction a mock elephant, then charge him with illegally disposing of government property. He is subjected to a mock court martial and a mock execution and is even obliged to deliver the funeral oration over his coffin. Now Galy Gay is ‘dead’, his transformation into a fighting machine is complete. Meanwhile, made randy by the rain, Bloody Five, ridiculously attired, arrives to sleep with Begbick's three daughters, but is so ashamed the next day that he shoots off his genitals. Galy Gay single-handedly destroys a Tibetan fortress and prepares for further vicious conflict.

AT: Man Is Man; Man Equals Man A: Bertolt Brecht Pf: 1926, Darmstadt Pb: 1927; rev. 1957 Tr: 1961 G: Com. in 11 scenes; German prose with songs S: India, 1925 C: 8m, 2f, extras

Planned as early as 1918, Man Equals Man represents a turning point in Brecht's career. Here for the first time, the impulses towards his Verfremdungseffekt (‘distanciation’), seen at the end of Drums in the Night, become integrated into the action: direct address to the audience, songs ‘separated from the rest’, simple white lighting, half-curtain, etc. Brecht's political ideology is still ambivalent: Galy Gay's misfortune is to lose his identity and become a brutal tool of imperialism, but his only alternative is to hold on to his individualism, which, for the Marxist, is bourgeois and reactionary.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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