Can someone please help me discuss how characters may act as vehicles to explore different ways of seeing the world in regards to Bog Child?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her review of the book, Meg Rosoff lauds the characterizations that underscore Bog Child.  Rosoff suggests that this is essential to the book's understanding:  "[Bog Child is] incapable of a jarring phrase or a lazy metaphor. Her sentences sing; each note resonates with an urgent humanity of the sort that cannot be faked."  Part of the reason why Dowd's characterizations are rich is because specific ways of viewing the world is seen through the eyes of different characters.  The end result is that the work speaks to how different world views color the modern setting and cause a sense of reflection in the individual's mindset.

The characters act as vehicles to different ways of seeing the world primarily because Fergus views them in this manner.  Fergus sees different world views contained within each of them, elements that he appropriates in his own consciousness.  As the narrative progresses, nothing becomes clear because the different world views are all so compelling and so convergent.  Fergus, himself, is apolitical.  He does not want to participate in the politicizing of consciousness that is around him.  The Troubles of Northern Island have permeated all aspects of being in the world.  Fergus simply wants to score well on his A level exams and leave The Troubles behind him.  This is one world view that he embraces, thinking that it's the only world view that he needs.  However, as he interacts with more characters whose world views are complex, he is able to explore them through their own consciousness.  As a result, the reader is able to filter them through their own mind's eye, as well.

One example of a character that Fergus interacts with who impacts his own world view because it impacts his own would be his brother.  Due to Joey's involvement with the Provos as a response to The Troubles, he has been imprisoned.  As a consequence, the hunger strike that he undergoes reflects his own world view:  He would rather die in opposition to the British than be alive. This world view is one that impacts Fergus because it is the opposite to his own.  Fergus seeks to disengage himself with The Troubles.  Yet, even in jail, Joey wants nothing but complete immersion with the cause and fight for freedom.  The colliding world views become even more complex when Fergus must advocate for his brother, and in doing so, reject one of his own values of not wanting to get involved.  Joey is the vehicle to explore the world view of political activism and zealous conviction.

Along those lines, Michael Rafters has a world view that equally challenges Fergus.  Michael needs to use Fergus as a "mule" to carry packages to the other side.  Fergus initially refuses, but then has to acquiesce in the name of using Michael to exert influence in order to help stop Joey from the hunger strike. Michael's world view is commitment to transporting goods to the other side and using whatever means he can to do so.  In this case, it means using Fergus, who once again must find his own world view challenged with a political reality that he rejects.  When Fergus realizes that he is not transporting bomb material, but actually contraception health supplies, it becomes clear that Fergus cannot deny the harsh violation of human rights that is happening. Fergus's world view is challenged in light of seeing Michael's world view, a vehicle that once again stresses how individuals choose to take action.

Another way in which characters act as vehicles to explore different ways of seeing the world is in Mel's story.  Fergus begins to empathize with the "child that time forgot," envisioning a narrative for her.  The world view that Fergus gains from this is Mel's sense of self- sacrifice.  The bog child's worldview is to embrace sacrifice for her community.  Mel believes in the need to save her family and community through her own actions.  The nobility in her world view is accentuated in how she is afraid to be hanged and begs Rur to stab her so that she can die by his hands and not the impersonal noose.  Fergus's exploration of Mel's world view is a reminder that there are times in which individuals must take action and cannot cling to isolation and political withdrawal.

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Bog Child

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