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Consider One Or More Of The Ways In Which Irish Fiction Addresses The Subject Of Violence

2413 words - 10 pages

There is a long history of violence within Ireland, and subsequently a long history of violence within Irish fiction. Ireland, like all countries, has seen multitudinous violent acts perpetrated for many different reasons, but for a long time within the Western media the most widely publicised aspect of Irish violence has been the political violence of Northern Ireland; the ‘Troubles’. Understandably this has shaped the collective psyche of the country and influenced Ireland’s people (author’s included) and has therefore featured heavily in Irish Fiction. Gerry Smyth says that the type casting of Irish characters is detrimental to the quality and originality of Irish fiction;
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In The Butcher Boy the progressive narrative of Francie Brady’s life exemplifies the theory that violence can be inextricably linked to both isolation and abuse. From the novel’s inception Francie is depicted as being separate from the rest of his community and even from his family. Throughout the novel the gulf between Francie and the outside world grows increasingly large and as his sense of isolation increases he becomes more out of touch with reality. With the bond of friendship between Francie and Joe dissipating Francie is devoid of guidance and an ability to regulate his behaviour, subsequently his propensity towards violence steadily intensifies. The inevitability of this is evident as even before Francie himself perpetrates violence upon others the reader sees he is the recipient of vicious punishment beatings from his affectionate yet mentally unstable mother,
Ma pulled me down the stairs and gave me the mother and father of a flaking but it took more out of her than it did out of me for her hands were trembling like leaves in the breeze she threw the stick from her and steadied herself in the kitchen saying she was sorry over and over… She put her arms round me and said it was her nerves it was them was to blame for everything. (McCabe, 1992: 4)

The family are locked in a cycle of abuse; Francie’s mother suffers at the hands of her abusive, alcoholic husband and in turn she disciplines Francie with violence. In contrast to the Nugent family, whose idyllic nuclear existence and cohesive family structure allow for clear lines of communication and cooperation from each family member, the Brady family is not so much a family as three isolated people living together beneath one roof. The sense of frustration and loneliness that is the catalyst for the Brady family’s violence within and without the household also eventually leads to the breakdown of the family unit. The mother’s suicide and the father’s descent into a fatalistic routine of alcohol abuse are a symptom of their lack of communication and their inability to voice concerns or feelings to one another. In their isolation they are unable to have a controlled impact or influence upon even their own lives except through the most extreme and violent means.
In Felicia’s Journey violence and loneliness also play a large part in the dynamics of the household. Felicia’s background is shaped by violence through her father’s unwavering support for those who fought for Ireland’s independence, specifically his late grandfather who died during the ‘Troubles’. “Felicia’s father honoured the bloodshed on his own: regularly in the evenings he sat with his scrap books of those revolutionary times” (Trevor. 1995: 24). Felicia never experiences violence herself, at least not at home, but because of her father’s idealistic views she is left at home in daily isolation to care for her elderly and sick grandmother. Like the Brady family, Felicia’s irregular home life is largely is due to a...

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