How does the audience respond to Miss Ruddock in Alan Bennett’s A Lady of Letters

The play ‘A Lady of Letters’ is about a woman who has an obsession with writing letters to different people about different things saying how she felt. She seems to criticise everything that goes on around in the neighbourhood and it has become a daily routine from which she can’t stop herself. Miss Ruddock’s lack of friends means that she needs something to occupy her time. It is written in a monologue which is just one character speaking, it shows inner thoughts and feelings.

The audience learns that she is very nosy and wants to know about things that are going on around her; she always wants people to know what she thinks and how she feels about what is going on in and around the neighbourhood. An example of this is when a new family moves in across the road from her house and she could hear a baby crying aged no more than 5, then she realises that they go out every night at about 7 o clock and no-one comes in to baby-sit. She says “nobody comes in to sit” without speaking to them to find out what is happening.

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So then writes them a letter so she knows that they know how she feels about it. I think that she would definitely irritate the audience as she has this constant urge or need to write letters to people saying what she felt and thought about things. The audience feels pity for Miss Ruddock for a number of reasons. Her mother died so she doesn’t have any family apart from a cousin in Canada. Also she doesn’t have any friends in the neighbourhood, so she is all on her own, always in the same place looking at the same 4 walls everyday with nothing to do except write poison pen letters.

The only friend/pal she has is her pen; it is has become such an obsession that all she can do is write poison pen letters and it ends up getting her in a lot of trouble with the police. At one point she says “I wrote to the queen” we find this funny because it is breaking moral code ant most citizens wouldn’t write a letter to the queen about something so trivial. The audience sees that Miss Ruddock is treated like she’s stupid by the people in authority around her. She goes to the doctor, but she didn’t see her normal doctor because her doctor wasn’t in on that day, so she had to see someone else.

She tells the doctor that she has been getting upset like last time and that it was all in her notes, the doctors solution to this was to give her some pills that should hopefully give her a “more balanced view on things”. But they didn’t work and she was still getting upset, so she went back again and another doctor just gives her more pills. All Miss Ruddock needs are people to talk to but everyone ignores her.

In the 1980’s Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the UK, she thought that everything should be privatised and that people should care for themselves and their families not the welfare of people in the state. he famously said “there is no such thing as society” this is well illustrated in Alan’s writing because of how he stresses that Miss Ruddock doesn’t know anyone who lives on her street. At one point she says how mother used to know the names of the occupants of every house on the whole street, about halfway through the play she begins commenting of a couple who live opposite that which truthfully she knows nothing about, just her own superstitions which she makes radical judgements on.

At one point in the play “Irene” as she was called for the first time was brought shatteringly down to earth when police officers knocked at her door, they where explaining how she was in breach of a restriction that was given to her by the court, she was “bound over to keep the peace” this meant that she couldn’t write to anyone, any company, or any council. Although as she knew that she was in breach of her sentence she still wrote a letter discussing the “kiddy” of the couple opposite, she believed that the child was being left alone in the house at night as she saw the parents leave the house every night “gadding”.

As the police officers where explaining what she had done she began to argue about how she had a firm case of “cruelty and neglect going on under my nose” then Alan’s writing explains how the police officer told her about how mistaken she was and what a tragedy had happened. “The kiddy wasn’t alone in the house. The kiddy wasn’t in the house. The kiddy was in hospital in Bradford, that’s where they were going every night. And that’s where the kiddy died, last Friday [… ] of leukaemia” At the end of the play the audience see that Miss Ruddock is in prison, applauding the staff and services inside.

This comes as a shock to the audience because earlier in the play she comments “Television, table tennis, art. ” She describes it as a “holiday camp” this is ironic because she is now praising what she disapproved before. Previously Miss Ruddock is broadcast to be lonely and depressed, although now after being placed in what is commonly seen as a bad place she is happy. We can tell this because of her speech, she speaks irrationally and has a very fast tempo about herself. Also her vocabulary has changed; beforehand she spoke very formally where as now she speaks in slang and uses casual swearwords but “only when the need arises”.

Whilst in prison Irene explains how she has found freedom whilst being around people, good or bad. Miss Ruddock’s last words of the play are “I’m so happy” Bennett has written this as if she is crying and shows that after everything that happens “prosperity is just around the corner”. In conclusion i would feel that Bennett’s dramatic monologue shows how controversial and self secluded our modern society is and in which the way communication has been overrun by mobile phones and computers, should this be the way the future of the united kingdom unfolds?