When Brian Friel’s play The Freedom of the City premiered in 1973, just a year after the events of Bloody Sunday, it was met with harsh criticism and called a work of propaganda. In the play, three peaceful protestors flee a civil rights demonstration turned violent and end up trapped inside the Guildhall in Derry, Northern Ireland. By the end of the play, they are shot dead. These three protestors, disoriented by violence as well as the aftereffects of life-long poverty, on the surface are not emblems of morality. However, this thesis employs Ami Harbin’s theorization of disorientation and moral action to challenge traditional virtue ethics and showcase that even in the midst of all-encompassing disorientation, moral action can easily emerge, even from the most unexpected person. Specifically, I look at the character Skinner, a flippant hooligan who leads the other trapped protestors through a series of games ultimately meant to encourage them to embrace their disorientation as he has. Within Friel’s drama, accepting and embracing disorientation as opposed to fighting it, I conclude, is what frees one from the bounds of disorientation, and in this case, allows a person to more fully perpetuate moral action.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Azar, Hannah Brooke, ""Defensive Flippancy": Play, Disorientation, and Moral Action in Brian Friel's The Freedom of the City" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 8440.
Brian Friel, Northern Ireland, The Troubles, Ami Harbin, moral action, virtue ethics, disorientation, play, games, Bloody Sunday