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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 552

As he tries to convince Cal to be a getaway driver for crimes to fund the IRA, Skeffington tells Cal,

"Think of the issues, not the people."

This seems like a wonderful way to absolve oneself, to relieve one's conscience, of the terrible things one does. Skeffington tries to persuade...

(The entire section contains 552 words.)

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As he tries to convince Cal to be a getaway driver for crimes to fund the IRA, Skeffington tells Cal,

"Think of the issues, not the people."

This seems like a wonderful way to absolve oneself, to relieve one's conscience, of the terrible things one does. Skeffington tries to persuade Cal not to worry about the individual people who might get hurt by any actions that they perform or crimes they commit in order to assist the Irish Republican Army in its resistance to England. If a person only thinks about the cause they are fighting for rather than any relative innocents who are harmed by one's actions, it is a lot easier to do things that will hurt other people. MacClaverty does not seem to agree with such a position, given the way he characterizes Skeffington as a rather slimy and remorseless person.

Of Cal, the narrator says,

He felt that he had a brand stamped in blood in the middle of his forehead which would take him the rest of his life to purge.

Unlike Skeffington, Cal cannot help but consider the individuals, especially ever since the murder of Robert Morton, in which he participated. Throughout the entire novel, Cal seems to be suffering from terrible guilt as a result of this, and the guilt dramatically affects his self-esteem. He is constantly cursing himself out in French (more or less). Cal constantly worries about attacks from the Loyalists who threaten him and his father, but even when he feels that he no longer must concern himself with them (after they've done their almost-worst by burning his house down), his own guilt begins to attack him again.

Not long after he fell asleep he had another terrible nightmare. They were becoming more frequent and more vivid. Now that he felt safe from the world outside he was being attacked from within his own head.

The nightmares seem to occur more often because he has found relative sanctuary in the cottage at the Mortons' home: the very family of the man he helped to kill.

Cal makes a few salient observations about perspective. For example,

It was funny, Cal thought, how Protestants were 'staunch' and Catholics were 'fervent.'

Staunch implies that one is steadfast, principled; it has a clearly positive connotation. Fervent implies a zealot; the connotation is less obviously positive. Though both Protestants and Catholics were, certainly, guilty of terrible actions during this era (and others), either side is more likely to describe their own actions positively while painting the others' as negative—even when they are, in many ways, the same.

At one point, Marcella describes her view of Ireland. She says,

"Ireland. It's like a child. It's only concerned with the past and the present. The future has ceased to exist for it."

It's ironic because she has just described Cal without realizing it, and she, of course, does not know of his involvement in her husband's death. He is still very childlike. He is mired in guilt over his past—the murder of Robert Morton—and how it affects his present. He never really can consider his future. He's obsessed with Morton's widow in the present and knows there can be no real future between them. He cannot think ahead due to his guilt and his obsession.

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