Photo: Livernois Studio in Quebec City taken in 1890. Anglo Boer War Museum. http://angloboerwarmuseum.com/ Boer70z6_hero28_mason.html.
The play was set in Quebec City, Canada in 1905. This was during the height of the industrial revolution and many of the issues of that era were included such as problems with child labor and the terrible working conditions in factories. The main issue however, centered around the differences between the wealthy and working class as well as moral and ethical questions. The class divide was evident in the very different lives led by Sarah Bernhardt and other characters like the Talbot family. Sarah was very wealthy and was portrayed as vain, complaining about trivial matters and flaunting expensive new dresses and shoes. This is in stark contrast to the Talbot family and their worries about how they would pay for the boys’ school and the fact that Leo who was just a child was forced to work in a factory in dangerous conditions. It is a perpetual cycle where the wealthy profit off the poor without thought for their hardships and the poor are oppressed and fear the consequences of working to change their situation. I knew about the problems with social inequality prior to coming to the play, but this gave a more in depth look at how it really affected individual people which was a different perspective.This ties into the other main issue relating to moral conflicts. In the play Talbot was raped but is bribed to keep quiet to protect the church even though the man that raped him had hurt many others and deserved to be punished. The performance makes you question at what point do you ignore your morals to protect yourself and others even when you know something is wrong. It became clear that there is no singular right answer, everyone thought they were in the right. Brother Casgrain was protecting himself and the reputation of the Church, Talbot was trying to do right by his family, even The Boss had a point about how he runs the factory but it’s the wealthy who demand the product at the lowest price without a care for the factory workers. The performance didn’t necessarily change my mind about the issues that were discussed, but definitely made me think more deeply about them and made me try to put myself in their shoes. I can’t relate directly to the problems caused by social inequality, but I think everyone can relate to the moral conflicts presented in the play and trying to figure out what is right and wrong.
The Emotional Experience