Philadelphia, Here I Come!

by Brian Friel

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How does the blue boat scene in Philadelphia, Here I Come! mirror the play's major themes?

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Joe Dowling directed numerous productions of Philadelphia, Here I Come! for the theatre. He once said that that the play dealt with our inability to communicate intimately, especially within the context of Irish society. The father and son relationship of S. B. and Gar highlight the extent of this communication...

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failure. The blue boat scene is important to Gar. It reminds Gar that there was a time where his father and he communicated with each other in such a way that was carefree and affectionate. When S.B. cannot remember the trip in the blue boat, Gar is hurt, and it reminds him of how distant his father has grown from him in the relationship. As the play ends, we find out that S. B. remembers Gar’s first trips to school in the same way Gar thinks of the blue boat. S. B. allows his son to leave at the end of the play, even though it will be difficult for him. The audience can infer that this is because S. B. loves his son, despite his inability to communicate it effectively.

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Gar's memory of the blue boat and of his father and himself fishing when he was a child is not shared by his father, just as certain 'memories' of his father's about Gar's childhood are not shared by Madge, the housekeeper. This shows the extent to which Gar and his father have become emotionally separated from each other down the years: each of them has built his own narrative of the past, or memory, because they have not been sharing in feeling or emotion for such a long time. The episode underlines the failure of communication that is one of the play's key themes, the emotional inhibition of the Irish male, or perhaps of males generally.

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