Young Lonigan: A Boyhood in Chicago Streets, the first volume of the Studs Lonigan trilogy, concerns Studs’s development from his graduation from St. Patrick’s Grammar School to the end of the year he was supposed to attend Loyola High School. Farrell is unsparing in his criticism of the platitudes mouthed by the Catholic priests (the influence of Irish novelist James Joyce is particularly evident in Father Gilhooley’s graduation address) and repeated by parents who bask in “burgher comfort” as they naïvely contemplate their children’s glowing futures. (In reality, Frank “Weary” Reilley becomes a sadistic rapist rather than a lawyer, and William “Studs” Lonigan hardly fulfills his mother’s ambition to have him become a priest.)
Farrell is primarily concerned with Studs’s struggle to create and maintain an identity, even if the tough-guy image he constructs is at odds with the “real” Studs. Sections 1 and 2 begin with Studs before a mirror contemplating his “image.” Studs is relieved when he looks “like Studs Lonigan was supposed to look,” the way he must appear to win peer acceptance. Here, as elsewhere, the ties between Studs and Farrell are quite evident. Although he later assures himself, “He was STUDS LONIGAN,” he does have lingering doubts about his true self: “He wished he was somebody else.” For his peers, Studs is, despite being rather small, a tough guy whose reputation depends on his...
(The entire section is 408 words.)