John Wheatley: "A Discursive Analysis of EastEnders"


Scene 22 sees the solution to the family problem put to work. The
pre topic opening ( Stenstr”m 94: 135) sees Father and son getting on. Matthew is invited to stay but declines, to leave his father free space with his mother. Once she realises what is going on, Susan's first concern is for her son. She is a mother after all.

What about Matthew?

Well I invited him but he felt he should clear off

follow up response (the evaluation is ironic)
Very cosy.

We move into the protracted cycle of problem - attempted solution - which raises further problems. Hoey calls this textual feature 'multilayering.'

Multilayering is a common phenomenon in the organistion of a discourse, and is built upon the fact that a negative evaluation is a signal of a problem. (Hoey 1983: 105)

Negative evaluation of a possible solution to a problem leads to another problem. The new problem, viewed from Susan's point of view, is that father and son are now conspiring behind the mother's back. Yes Susan wanted Michael and Matthew to talk; to trust each other more. However she wanted Mcahel to find out more about what had happened between Matthew and Sarah. Instead she finds that they have been plotting a course of action; a solution to the family's problems behind her back.

I put it forward as a likely feature of ongoing story lines in soaps that we have problem situations, attempted solutions which only lead to new and associated problems, which in turn also need to be solved. This may be a simple, generalised kind of analysis but it is at least a workable one and will allow more fine tuning as the work progresses.

Well one minute the pair of you aren't talking and the next you're putting your heads together to sort me out, is that it?

We thought you'd be pleased.

It's not that simple Michael

Susan's evaluation is crucial. Things are not quite that simple. Susan needs her say, to play her part in making a solution happen too. She is not a passive object. Also, no progress has been made on the Sarah issue, the topic that Susan wanted her son and husband to talk about. Instead they have only been talking about her - which they both prefer but Susan is unsure. What is sure at this stage is that a huge outstanding problem remains.

The scene ends with the problem as seen from Michael's point of view. I put this forward as another likely feature of ongoing story lines, that problems are viewable from more than one perspective and that evaluation of any possible solution will be a contested rather than simple one sided site. Fundamentally, it is this multi angular feature plus contestation that progresses that most clearly characterise the major action line of an episode. More on this in the next section.

reply + elicit
Well what is the truth Susan? That Matthew is not the only one to have his hopes built up for nothing?

Scene 25 is the longest scene in the episode, 36 turns. This then is the enaction of the would be solution Michael and Matthew are driving for and is still the problem as far as Susan is concerned. Again, length is surely a singifier of importance.

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AS/SA Nº 6/7, Article 4 : Page 6 / 13

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