In Cal by MacLaverty, why does Cal not succeed in learning Gaelic, and what does this tell you about this attitude toward "the cause"?

In Cal by Bernard MacLaverty, Cal does not succeed in learning Gaelic because he can't pronounce the written form of some of the words. This tells you that his attitude toward "the cause" is less than enthusiastic.

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We learn that Cal , for the sake of the Movement, meaning militant Irish republicanism, has tried to learn Gaelic. For Irish republicans, Gaelic is of considerable cultural importance, not least because being able to understand the language is a marker of one's Irish identity. It is also regarded as...

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We learn that Cal, for the sake of the Movement, meaning militant Irish republicanism, has tried to learn Gaelic. For Irish republicans, Gaelic is of considerable cultural importance, not least because being able to understand the language is a marker of one's Irish identity. It is also regarded as an outward sign of one's commitment to the cause of Irish republicanism.

But Cal had to give up learning Gaelic after a while. He just couldn't pronounce the written form of the words. Diphthongs like bh and dh give him particular trouble. Try as he might, he just never knows how to say words containing them.

That Cal should give up learning Gaelic so soon after beginning is an indication that his devotion to the cause of militant Irish republicanism is somewhat lukewarm. Far from being a gun-wielding fanatic like the terrorists with whom he consorts, Cal doesn't feel comfortable with violence. On the contrary, he positively loathes it. As he candidly confesses to Skeffington, he simply doesn't have the stomach for it.

That being the case, we can see Cal's failure to learn Gaelic as a prelude to his abandonment of what used to be called physical-force republicanism. Cal's heart was never really in it.

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