Theme Study – Seth Smith

A recurring idea that is prevalent throughout all four texts is unusual relationships. The authors have highlighted the idea of complex relationships in each text as it is a common occurrence throughout society that shapes individuals. All four texts express the idea of dysfunctional relationships, however the way each author uses it can be compared and contrasted. The idea of unusual relationships is first expressed in the play Othello, written by William Shakespeare. This is shown in the relationship that Othello and Iago share. Their relationship is dysfunctional because it is built on lies and deceit. Ned Stark and Petyr Baelish are characters who, in the text A Game of Thrones written by George R.R Martin express the idea of dysfunctional relationships. Their relationship is unusual as Ned and Petyr are two contrasting individuals who share a relationship for their own profit. In the film Billy Elliot directed by Stephen Daldry, the idea of unusual relationships is displayed differently by the relationship between Billy and Jackie. This relationship is built around a father-son bond which is affected by the 1984 miners’ strike. However it lacks the communication that is necessary for a functional relationship. Another text that expresses the idea of unusual relationships is the text Job, written by Dan Preston. The idea unusual relationships is represented by the relationship that Job shares with his mother. This relationship is unusual as Job’s mother is very cold and abusive towards Job, resulting with a loveless relationship.

In the play Othello the key idea of unusual relationships is expressed by the extremely dysfunctional relationship between Othello and his ensign, Iago. Their friendship is built on Iago’s lies and treachery which Shakespeare has utilised to create an unusual relationship. Othello is an outsider who has grown up in a military environment and has grown to trust his comrades and those he has known for long periods of time. Because of this he trusts Iago, a manipulative man who is deceitful rather than trusting Desdemona his wife. An example of Iago’s deceit is in Act one where he says “But for my sport and profit, I do hate the Moor.” This shows us that the only reason Iago shares a relationship with Othello is for his own personal gain and fun, aside from this Iago hates Othello. Iago even calls Othello a moor, which is a derogatory term based purely on race and highlights the difference between Othello and his peers. By using this dialogue we can see that the author’s intention is to show the reality of relationships and how many, both then and now are established for one’s personal gain. Iago’s deceit is once again shown when he says “I must show out a flag of sign and love.” In this, Iago is stating how he will deceive Othello by pretending to be a loyal friend. Shakespeare uses the word ‘flag’ because it is a military term that is often associated with a white flag of war. This highlights the fact that Othello and Iago share a military relationship. The author has used Iago and Othello’s unusual relationship to highlight how common treachery was amongst soldiers in Venetian times and how easy it was for someone to be manipulated by one that calls you friend. The idea of unusual relationships is expressed in the text A Game of Thrones. The idea is used similarly in both texts as the authors create characters who use deceit and false trust to manipulate their friends. In both of these texts the end result for the trusting characters is death.

In A Game of Thrones, the intriguing idea of unusual relationships is developed further. Many relationships among lords and nobles are dysfunctional because many are treacherous and deceitful. However a relationship which is the most relevant to this theme is the relationships between Ned Stark and Petyr Baelish. Ned is a highborn, honest warrior who has been brought to a large city to become the right hand man to the throne. Petyr however, is a lowborn nobody who has tricked and cheated his way into a position of relative power, the master of coin. Being two very contrasting individuals Ned and Petyr share an unusual relationship in which Ned is a trusting character however Petyr is a manipulative character. Petyr is similar to Iago in Othello because he betrays Ned, although he is honest about his deviousness which is contrasting to Iago who disguises his dishonesty. An example of the dysfunction between Ned and Petyr is first seen when Petyr says to Ned “Distrusting me was the smartest thing you have done.” This shows the honesty Petyr has towards Ned but warns both the reader and Ned of his deceitfulness. The author has used this line as it foreshadows Petyr’s betrayal and the complex nature of how he gains Ned’s trust. Petyr shows his treachery when he says to Ned “The City’s Watch is yours.” However when saying this, Petyr had no intention of giving Ned Stark the backup he needed, even though Petyr could have afforded it. He then references his previous dialogue when he says “I did warn you not to trust me,” as he puts a blade to Ned’s throat. These quotes blatantly show the audience that Petyr is a distrustful person who lies and manipulates Ned. In betraying Ned, Petyr becomes the lord of a large hold which makes clear the fact that Petyr is a power hungry man who uses his friendship with Ned for his own personal gain. The author has used this relationship as power was a major advantage to a person’s wealth and reputation in medieval times so it was not uncommon for someone to betray a friend in order to earn power and respect. The dysfunctional relationship between Ned and Petyr expresses this when Ned, an honest man was betrayed by Petyr who valued the rise to power more than his friendship with Ned. The film Billy Elliot also expresses the idea of unusual relationships through a relationship based on family dysfunction, pressured by the circumstances in society. This is different to the relationship in A Game of Thrones which focuses the idea around treachery incurred by power.

Unusual relationships are often influenced by societal pressures which it shapes individuals. Billy Elliot clearly expresses this. A relationship which represents the idea of unusual relationships in the film, is the relationship between Jacky and Billy. Both characters, father and son, live in a poverty stricken area which has been affected by the 1984 miners’ strike. The character Petyr from A Game of Thrones is similar to Billy as they both grow up without wealth or power yet they overcome society’s stereotypes. However they are different as they live in different times with different aspirations. Influenced by the hardship of the miners’ strike Jacky is very distant and hostile towards Billy and sometimes reacts to Billy’s curiosity with violence as seen when Jackie says “What the f**k are you looking at.” This represents Jacky’s lack of understanding towards Billy and the wild look on his face highlights the struggle Jacky is going through and how hard it is to raise two boys in poverty. The director has used this to show the pressure the mining strike had on individuals and their relationships with others. A key difference between Billy and Jacky that leads to their dysfunction is the fact that Billy loves ballet. However Jacky, being a male stereotype thinks ballet is meant for girls and Billy should be boxing. An example of this is shown in the dialogue “Men play rugby, football, boxing or even wrestling, not friggen ballet.” This is a clear example of the stereotyping of Billy’s decision to dance rather than to box, a decision in which initially his father does not accept. The director has used this dialogue as it shows the audience the difference between Billy and Jackie and also the male stereotypes that Billy had to overcome to dance, all without the support of a feminine figure. This is contrasting in today’s society were children grow up in a caring environment where they are encouraged to pursue all their dreams. Because of this contrast, the reader can gather an understanding of the multitude of Billy’s decision to oppose society’s views and follow his dreams. Billy and Jacky share an unusual relationship but in the end, because Jacky loves Billy, he ends up accepting Billy’s love for dancing and becomes a proud father. Job is a text that shows dysfunctional relationships. Similarly with Billy Elliot the relationships are unusual because they are based on family problems, however the relationship in Job is different as it lacks the love shown in Billy Elliot and is even abusive.

Job portrays an example of dysfunctional violent relationships which shapes individuals. Job is a young boy who is abused by his mother which makes their relationship unusual and dysfunctional. Job is unloved and abused to a point where he must take action to prevent further distress. Billy from Billy Elliot shares a similar relationship with his father, as Jacky often reacts with violence towards Billy. However Jacky still loved Billy which is different to the loveless relationship between Job and Job’s mother. The author portrays Job’s mother as a cruel women which many reader begin to dislike. This can be seen in the dialogue where Job’s mother says to Job and his friend “P*** off you faggots, go play on the road,” This is blatant verbal abuse, a sentence no loving mother would say to their child which shows us that Job’s mother does not love or care for Job. The author used colloquial language to invoke a dislike from the readers towards Job’s mother and therefore make us sympathise with Job rather than view him as a naughty child. This is important as many people judge children on their behaviour, however many do not understand the challenging upbringing some children face at home. Along with verbal abuse, we are made aware of physical abuse towards Job who is seen “inspecting his skinny belly. It was a mass of bruises, interspersed with red craters the diameter of burning cigarettes.” This shows the clear dysfunction between Job and his mother. The author has used this to once again make reader sympathise with Job as a child who doesn’t have any support from his family and does not know what it is to be loved. It is then made clear Job does not want to be around his mother so when he escapes he says “Job done” which is a pun but also tells us Job is free from an abusive relationship. Unfortunately abusive relationships are a part of our society which is why authors include them in their work.

All four texts express the idea of unusual relationships. The authors have all highlighted this idea as it is a common occurrence throughout society which shapes individuals. In Othello the idea is expressed through the manipulative relationship Iago has with Othello. This is similar to the deceitful relationship Petyr Baelish shares with Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones. Characters from A Game of Thrones can be compared with those in the film Billy Elliot to show the different influences of society on relationships. The idea is explored in Job through the abusive relationship between Job and his mother. This is similar to Billy Elliot because both Billy and Job are faced with difficult circumstances and violence. Together all four texts further the readers understanding of dysfunctional relationships.

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