Student Question

What are the themes in The Butcher Boy?

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The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe deals largely with the theme of identity crisis. While this crisis is realized outright in the character of Francie, McCabe is attempting to draw a parallel to the issue with identity that Ireland as a nation is facing. Ireland finds itself a neocolonial state, subject to the British Empire. As it has been subjugated through the use of cultural and economic hegemony rather than direct military occupation, it has in many way become unclear exactly what Ireland is, and what the national identity of an Irishman truly entails. In response to this struggle, the 1960's saw the emergence of various anarchistic collectives acting as anti-colonial forces. Ultimately, this caused an even deeper schism in Irish national identity as the role of conformity in a thoroughly unbalanced state was called into question. This theme of clashing identities is played out in the novel through the highly dysfunctional interpersonal relationships that dominate the lives of the characters.

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