My Days of Anger, one of the five novels in James T. Farrell’s O’Neill-O’Flaherty series, chronicles the lives of two Chicago Irish-Catholic families with young Danny O’Neill as the central character. Published fourth but coming last in the chronology of Danny’s life, My Days of Anger is a Künstlerroman; that is, a novel of a young protagonist’s developing an identity as an artist. Set on Chicago’s South Side from 1924 to 1927, the novel opens with Danny working nights and attending the University of Chicago days while initially aspiring to become a lawyer. As the novel closes, Danny has rejected this goal, the middle-class values of his family, his Catholicism, and the prejudices of his neighborhood, leaving Chicago for New York to become a writer.
As he develops, Danny undergoes numerous emotional and intellectual changes. Having grown up in the O’Flaherty household with a doting uncle and grandmother because his immediate family is too poor to keep him, Danny wrestles with the guilt of having enjoyed more advantages than his numerous siblings and learns to appreciate the struggles of his parents. He sees beyond the business ethics of his Uncle Al, a traveling salesman and his surrogate father, who, though meaning well, is pretentious and shallow. At the university, reading philosophy along with much Romantic poetry, he finds that Catholicism fails to explain a world he views as brutal and unjust. In the name...
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