Study Guide

The Commitments

by Roddy Doyle

The Commitments Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The picaresque character of James “Jimmy” Rabbitte, Jr., manages both the group The Commitments and the novel The Commitments. Rabbitte is the mastermind of the concept of “Dublin soul” after the first wave of punk rock in the 1980’s. He takes out a classified ad in the Hot Press, the alternative newspaper in Dublin, which attracts a truly motley crew of mostly young north-side Dubliners to play honest, straightforward rhythm and blues in the tradition of Motown Records, down to the white shirts and black suits for the men and simple black dinner dresses for the three Commitmentettes.

Doyle exquisitely shows the partially planned, partially haphazard manner in which most local bands form. At the same time, Doyle’s descriptions of the characters’ situations and their disarmingly unique and poetic Irish-English diction and syntax provide insights into what seems to be an exceptionally authentic rendering of working-class Irish urban culture. Critics have both praised and reviled Doyle for his willingness to use not only the colloquialisms and slang of regional dialect but also a good deal of profanity, including repeated usages of what are generally thought to be the crudest swear words. While Doyle generally declines comment on his work, his defenders usually praise his ability to render the local idiom of Dublin’s north side, and the profane diction seems consistent with the young adults who populate his fiction.

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(The entire section is 487 words.)

The Commitments Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

McCarthy, Dermot. Roddy Doyle: Raining on the Parade. Dublin: Liffey Press, 2003.

Paschel, Ulrike. No Mean City? The Image of Dublin in the Novels of Dermot Bolger, Roddy Doyle, and Van Mulkerns. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.

Reynolds, Margaret. Roddy Doyle. New York: Vintage, 2004.

Tóibín, Colm, ed. The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction: From Jonathan Swift to Roddy Doyle, Three Hundred Years of Ireland’s Greatest Fiction. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 2001.

White, Caramine. Reading Roddy Doyle. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2001.