Edna O'Brien Long Fiction Analysis
Edna O’Brien’s early years in Ireland profoundly affected her view of the world, and particularly of women’s relationships and their place in society. Being Irish, she says in Mother Ireland, gives one a unique view of pleasure and punishment, life and death. O’Brien’s work is lyrical and lively. Her memory for people and places, for the minutiae of daily living, is prodigious; her zest for language is Joycean. She is frequently on the attack, but at her best, which is often, she transcends her immediate cause to encourage, with a grain of humor, those who still dream of love achieved through kindness and decency—common virtues still no more common than they ever were.
O’Brien’s concerns are most readily accessible in her very eccentric travel/autobiography Mother Ireland. Her Irishness is something of which O’Brien is proud: “It’s a state of mind.” She is not, however, blind to Ireland’s faults, appreciating that there must be something “secretly catastrophic” about a country that so many people leave. After an iconoclastic opening chapter on Irish history, with its uncanonized patron saint and its paunchy Firbogs, follow six chapters in which are sketched O’Brien’s dominant themes: loneliness, the longing for adventure (often sexual), the repressive Irish Roman Catholic Church, family ties (the martyred mother and the rollicking father), and the courageous hopelessness with which life at best must be...
(The entire section is 4529 words.)
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