Eighteen-year-old Fergus McCann, the main character of Bog Child, is trying to make sense of life in an environment of murder and terrorist activity. He is an empathetic and humane person who has long cherished a dream of becoming a doctor. Although he knows his brother Joey is involved in the Troubles, he does not know his family is involved in other ways as well.
Throughout the novel, Fergus “sees” events happening when he is not present. He dreams the story of Mel, the child he finds in the bog. Even when he is not near Joey, Fergus vividly imagines his brother wasting away from hunger. His extreme empathy makes it believable that he is willing to sacrifice himself to prevent more bloodshed at the end of the novel.
Joey McCann, Fergus’s brother, is serving a prison term at Her Majesty’s Prison Maze, also known as Long Kesh, for working with the Provisional IRA. He follows the leader, Bobby Sands, in a hunger strike calling for special treatment for political prisoners. He takes the position that it is worth sacrificing his own life and his family’s happiness to further the political goals of the Provisional IRA.
Fergus’s parents, whom he calls Mam and Da, are in conflict through much of the novel. Mam, who did not grow up in Northern Ireland, sees little sense in the violence and death of the Troubles. Before Joey joins the hunger strikers, she mocks the strikers, saying they are killing themselves over clothes.
Da believes that the strikers, Joey included, are making a principled stand against a tyrannical leader. Unlike Mam, he does not try to convince Joey to give up his strike. There is some suggestion that this is partly out of deference to his brother Tally, a feared bomb maker for the Provisional IRA. By the end of the novel, Fergus convinces Da to choose Joey’s life over his political convictions. Da allows doctors to drip feed Joey and save his life.
Theresa and Cath McCann, Fergus’s younger sisters, are considered too young to be included in making adult decisions about Joey. However, they are clearly affected by his decision to go on the hunger strike. Cath tries to convince...
(The entire section is 910 words.)