John Wheatley: "A Discursive Analysis of EastEnders"

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Scene 15 is a long and important scene. The big problem for the episode is firstly how will Michael and Susan get back together and secondly how can Michael get closer to his son. The former problem can only be resolved if there is at least progress with the latter. Matthew needs convincing that his father is serious, that he won't be off again at the first sign of trouble. Michael informs Matthew that this won't happen. Some success starts to seem possible when Matthew agrees to stay in the restaurant and starts to open up and to tell his father through INFORM moves what is on his mind.

Matthew
inform
I mean , You don't tell what is going on between you and mum, that's completely different.


Matthew says he is not worried but he clearly is at the prospect of things not getting better between his parents, and that they might quickly get worse again. The problem is made clear as the talk provides some of the means to solve it.

Matthew
inform
I mean , You don't tell what is going on between you and mum, that's completely different.

Michael
reply /offer
I'll tell you anything you want to know
well go on ask me anything.

Scene 17 is a return to the lunch scene much as when we left it. Real time may have gone faster than scene time for a change. This is also one of the longest scenes in the show, and, connected with the first half of the talking scene in 15 these two scenes between them account for 56 turns at talk; far more than any other single episode. Surely this is a soap signifier of importance.

Real progress is made here as Michael tells his son how he feels. Matthew offers his own care of his mum as a solution to her problem for his father's evaluation. He evaluates what Matthew did very positively but makes it clear that it is not the best solution; it is too heavy a burden for a teenager to carry. The implication is that a full family solution will work better.

Matthew starts to be convinced. Action happens then through this scene. It is not just talk about action somewhere else. The talk is constitutive of attitudes and emotions changing, changing in a way that make a solution to this family's problems attainable. This progress is clearly marked when Matthew agrees with his father, rare enough in itself but agrees that his childhood wasn't all unhappy. There is agreement therefore that the family unit has value and is worth trying to restart. The scene ends with ADVICE from son to father on how to solve the other side of the problem; how to get Susan to take him back.

The solution of the lack of trust problem between father and son allows for the cycle to continue with consideration of the problem between Michael and Susan. In case the audience missed the fact that they now have a small time solution on their hands the fact is encapsulated in the talk of Sanjay and Michael in scene 19. This both recounts the action for the audience, if they didn't catch its full import the first time round, and also acts as an evaluation of what has taken place.

The question answer pattern provides a simple textual vehicle for this evaluative action to take place.

Sanjay
elicit
So he's really alright about it now is he?

Michael
reply
Yeah, I managed to convince him that I have got his mum's best interests at heart.


We have yet to really deal with the problem that besets Susan and Michael but the major problem that was besetting father and son can now be evaluated as 'alright'. Michael has 'managed to convince' his son. This at least temporary solution to one problem allows the major problem to be tackled, and with both men playing for the same solution. The rest of scene 19 with Sanjay gives us a preview of Michael's chosen route to persuading Susan to have him back. The solution is aired to the audience; now we can watch and see how it actually turns out.








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1999.05.31