Whose Life Is It Anyway - Part 2
The book has been written by Brian Clarke not only to entertain readers, but to also make a statement about euthanasia - Whose Life Is It Anyway introduction. Euthanasia is defined as an ‘easy death’, however after reading the play ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway’, readers start to get an idea of what a struggle it is, not only to have the courage to end your own life, but to persuade others around you that it is the right decision, especially someone in Ken’s situation. He is paralysed from the neck which means he cannot kill himself and must be aided to do so. Euthanasia is at present illegal in the United Kingdom where the play is set.
In addition, the Christian religion views suicide as a sin, no matter what the situation. However in recent years, an increasing number of people have argued their own cases to end their lives. Few have been allowed. This is play is about one such person, Ken, who argues his case before the Judge and does so successfully which sets a precedent and sends a powerful message to the reader. In the first few pages of the script the reader is not directly informed of Ken’s ‘situation’, however there is a lot of dark humour and sexual innuendoes that hint what is wrong with him. Hello, I’m afraid I cant offer you’re my hand’, ‘A mate of mine smuggled me out …. we went midnight skateboarding, the only problem was I was the skateboard’. Already the audience understands Ken’s situation and have been made uncomfortable by the black humour he uses, either he is trying to ease the tension between himself and the nurse, or he is looking for some attention, some sympathy perhaps. This kind of black humour is constantly used by Ken in the script and it makes the audience question if he has come to accept his disbility or he is actually rotting away inside and using humour to hide his sadness.
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Ken will be living a life of chastity from now on and so he creates a lot of sexual banter between himself and the nurses. ‘Have me on the floor sister. Have me on the floor. ’, ‘I used to dream of situations like this, lying on a bed being massaged by two beautiful women. ’ Ken is sexually frustrated and by adding a bit of sexual tension to moments he may be able to ease his frustration a little. The audience sees that Ken wants people around him to view him just as much a real person as anyone else.
For example, when the nurse asks him, ‘Were you a teacher’, the problem Ken has with the question is that it is in present tense and suggests he no longer is one, ‘You said: were you’re a teacher? You should have said are you a teacher? ’ Ken is not telling the nurse off, he is just making sure people don’t see his life as over. On the same page, the audience doubts if Ken has accepted that he is probably going to be paralysed for the rest of his life, ‘for the first time in the history of medical science, a ruptured spinal column will heal itself – it’s just a bit of a bore waiting for it to happen. The audience will be unsure if Ken is just being sarcastic and making another joke or he actually believes he will end up back the way he used to be. The audience will feel very sorry for Ken at this point because he still has hope for a recovery, which just makes the audience dread the moment when he realises he is going to be paralysed forever. At the end of act 1, the audience sees a much more serious side to Ken’s situation. It starts with Ken commenting on Dr Scott’s behaviour around him, and how she is relaxed because she doesn’t see him as a man anymore, ‘I watch you walking in the room, bending over me, tucking in your sweater.
It surprises me how relaxed a woman can become when she is not in the presence of a man. ’ This shows the audience that Ken may have accepted that his life has been changed forever and that people around him merely consider him an object, no longer a human being. This may be what drives him to be serious about what he wants for his future, ‘I am serious you know ….. about deciding to die. ’ This is such a powerful moment, Dr Scott makes a half hearted attempt at trying to persuade Ken otherwise, ‘You will get over that feeling’, ‘But if we acted on your decision now, there wouldn’t be an opportunity for you to accept. The audience knows that Dr Scott really cares about Ken, and so the reason for her weak attempt at trying to persuade him to carry on living, cannot be because she doesn’t care what happens. It surely must be that she also thinks that his death is the right decision, but she is obliged as a doctor to say otherwise. The last line of Act 1 prepares the audience for the change off attitude in Act 2. John, a character who brings humour to the script and says exactly what he is thinking, ends the act with, ‘Ping-pong….. ou poor bastard. ’ Such a low key to end on, however it is just a taster of what is to come. Act 2 is in contrast with Act 1, with the start being filled with black humour and sexual innuendo it makes Act 2 seem even more powerful. Ken start going though procedure which if they go right will end in his death. Although the script focuses mainly on Ken and how his life no longer exists, all around him the audience views life amongst the doctors and nurses.
This creates another contrast, the audience is seeing someone who no longer has anything to live for, but people he spends every day with are living on their lives, they have a future and he does not. It makes the audience question how its fair that there is a man, just as good as anybody else wanting to die because he has nothing to live for and no one cares enough to think about him outside the hospital. In Act 1 Ken appeared to find it hard to talk about something serious without throwing in a joke to break the ice.
However in Act 2 as it comes closer to the end he is able to answer seriously and shows the audience he has accepted that he will not get better. Kershaw gives him the hard fact about if he succeeds in court, ‘if you succeed your aim you will be dead within a week’. In the past Ken will have answered with a joke, or with sarcasm but this time he gives a straight and serious one, ‘I know’. It doesn’t seem like much but it is a point in the play where the audience feels that he is actually going to do this, he is really going to die.
After winning his plea to end his life, Ken is about to be put into a deep sleep that will kill him within a week. The last few lines are very calm and bleak; there is no crying or long goodbyes, just a simple convosation. The only people with Ken are Dr Emerson and Dr Scott, there is no family and so the audience feels that Ken is going to die a bit lonely. During the whole play Ken never really opens up and says what he is feeling; the ending is no different. Dr Scott goes to kiss him but he says, ‘oh, don’t, but thank you’.
He does accept the kiss because she is still just a doctor and him a patient, with the scene being so calm the audience feels even sadder because Ken is going to die on his own, and he will be forgotten by the doctors and nurses as there lives will go on. Humour is used throughout the story; however it is only black humour and it’s not used to make the play funny, but to provoke sympathy. Whenever Ken says a joke that lowers his self esteem, the audience feels even sorrier for him, which builds up and when he dies it is very saddening because all that feelings for Ken are released when he dies.
The play certainly gives the audience an idea of what people in Ken’s situation might go through, and by the looks of it the law will most probably change in the future because many people believe that euthanasia is sometimes the right thing to do. After reading the play I do wish the law would be changed because people should be able to decide what they want to do with their own lives, what gives anybody else the right? Anyway ‘Whose Life Is It Anyway? ’