Self-sacrifice is the main theme of Bog Child.From the beginning of the book, Dowd makes it clear that sacrifice is not a simple issue. She suggests that life is precious and that giving it up inevitably causes suffering among the people who survive. However, she also shows that self-sacrifice is a noble choice when it is the only way to unite divided people or to preserve the lives of others.

The hunger strike in Bog Child is based on real events in Northern Ireland in 1980 and 1981. At the time, prisoners from the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) were treated as common criminals, but they wanted British officials to consider them political prisoners. One of their main demands was that political prisoners be given different uniforms than common criminals had. Ten men, including Provisional IRA leader Bobby Sands, starved themselves to death in an attempt to force British leaders to comply with their demands.

Bog Child,whichbegins shortly after the death of Bobby Sands, presents several complicated opinions about the hunger strikes. Fergus’s mam speaks out against the strike, calling it a tragedy that men kill themselves “all over a few old clothes.” Fergus’s father says the strikers are making a noble sacrifice, but Ma does not see it that way. She says, “Sacrifice is what Jesus did. He saved us all. Who did Bobby Sands save?”

Fergus, too, considers the hunger strikes a waste of life. He agonizes over his brother’s choice to join the strike, and he wonders repeatedly whether Joey understands the harm his death will cause to his family. Fergus predicts that his parents will divorce and that he and his sisters will be ruined by the grief and confusion following their brother’s death.

However, in the climactic scene of the book, Fergus also makes a decision to sacrifice himself. Rather than continuing to smuggle what he believes to be Semtex, Fergus turns himself in to British authorities. In doing this, he accepts the likelihood...

(The entire section is 842 words.)