Barryville. Irish town that is the birthplace and early home of the braggart and bully Redmond Barry—later to become Barry Lyndon. The novel opens with Barry Lyndon, at age forty, looking back over his life in an attempt to give it shape. He begins his memoir with a description of the tiny house in Barryville where he was born and expresses his bitter regret over the loss of his family’s vast ancestral lands to a British aristocrat named Lyndon.
In Barryville, Barry falls from grace. After watching British soldiers parading in the Irish fields, he fights a duel with a British officer named Quin over a woman. This familial model parallels the history of Ireland’s subjugation by the British and, in a manner, justifies Barry’s frustration with his life and his subsequent career as a scoundrel and rogue. It may be argued that Barry is merely attempting to recover what he believes to be his birthright, his family lands, and, though perhaps inadvertently, his family honor. In the middle nineteenth century, Ireland was an exploited and deeply impoverished land that many people were anxious to leave.
Deluded into believing that he has killed the British officer in the duel, Barry predictably leaves for Dublin. Along the way he is robbed, finds he has nowhere to turn and so he enlists in the British army to fight in the Seven Years’ War. The only two people Barry ever finds any modicum of comfort with, and love for, are his uncle and fellow con man, Cornelius Barry (Chevalier de Baliban) with whom he travels as a professional gambler, and his devoted mother—both from his home in Ireland.
*The Continent. European continent on which a large part of the novel develops, as Barry travels almost constantly from country to country. In this regard, Thackeray details the European courts’ dissipated lifestyle, rife with gambling and illicit romantic...
(The entire section is 793 words.)