Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Mervyn, sometimes called Merlin, winds his way from Shannon in the Republic of Ireland to Carmincross in Northern Ireland and then back to Dublin. It is a very leisurely and circuitous journey, punctuated by Mervyn’s running commentary on the state of Ireland in the 1970’s; he contrasts again and again the pastoral Ireland of his youth to the murderous division that has marked the Ireland of his adulthood. Much of the novel is a monologue by Mervyn, and his speech is full of references to songs, poems, and speeches which counterpoint and contrast the heroic and the ideal of the past to the meanspirited and fanatical ideas of the present.
When Mervyn arrives in Ireland at Shannon, he is reunited with an old friend, Mr. Burns, and an old love, Deborah. After a brief rest, Mervyn sets out for Carmincross with Deborah for a niece’s wedding. The first pause in the journey is to visit a hero of 1916 with two travelers they have joined, Killoran and Jeremiah. Killoran is very respectful to this nameless hero, but Jeremiah mocks him and what his kind have created, a climate for murder and destruction. The hero’s talk is about not only the Troubles of 1916-1921 but also the battles and defeats of the sixteenth century. “On such bullshit were we raised, says Jeremiah. No wonder we are the way we are.” Mervyn and Deborah are caught in the middle of this conflict and say little; the division of the group into three separate parts is, perhaps, a reflection...
(The entire section is 910 words.)
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