John Wheatley: "A Discursive Analysis of EastEnders"


Scenes are open to at least this much multiple interpretation. One participant's solution is quite clearly the other's problem. The discourse analysis model I am using is meant not to try and unduly limit possible interpretations, either by watcher or participant. On the contrary, the analysis should highlight the fact that different ways of interpreting a scene are available.

Susan's first solution is to return to the way things were, just her and Matthew. Michael has talked Matthew out of this, but not Susan yet. Michael gains ground by pointing out that that isn't very fair on the teenage boy. Susan's next solution is that she can live alone. As a sufferer of relapsing remissing MS this is not quite out of the question. It is still not the desired solution for Michael, or Matthew at the moment.

The crux of the problem, as seen from Susan's angle makes the last words of the scene.

Why does giving in to you feel like giving up on myself?

The problem is paramount at this stage.

Scene 28 offers us a taste of solution for both Michael and Susan.
Rather than being constructed through disagreement as was scene 25, the first solution scene, this one is constructed around the sharing of inner feelings, the admission of deep uncertainty by Susan, about her future. She just doesn't know yet what solution will work. She is being honest now rather than just problematical.

Susan needs to be convinced that Michael really wants her. Once that is done there is hope for them. The solution might work.

Maybe I am not myself anymore.

react + opine
Come on, come on, hey, you are stronger and beautiful, more maddening than ever.

Oh, Michael.

They kiss.

Any evaluation of this solution stage will wait until the next episode.

Conclusion of the First Part
The point of all this is to show firstly that this linguistically formed analysis suits the way that soap opera dialogue functions. Secondly it is hoped that the nature of the analysis indicates that although soap opera narrative is open-ended: "Soap opera consists of an ever expanding middle." (Brown, 1989: 186)

Along the way there are mini closures all the time. The fact that there is no final closure matters little to the close up way in which scenes highlight problems and offer solutions to them; solutions which are both successful and positively evaluated and those which are neither. One might say, that in this soap opera is more like life itself than other media dramas.

I hope this introductory detailed analysis shows something of what a linguistic approach can do. Moving to a slightly more generalised position I would like to conclude this piece by examining the nature of evaluation in this episode and by attempting to account for the functions that different kind of evaluation may have.

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