Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 374

The main theme of Castle Rackrent is the dissolution of estates in Ireland that were controlled by Anglo-Irish lords. The three lords that Thady Quirk, the family retainer who relates the tale, works for all contribute to the ruin of Castle Rackrent. Sir Murtagh is stingy and cares little for his tenants, while the next heir, Sir Kit, is at first an absentee landlord and later marries a woman he does not love to benefit the estate. She does not share her riches with him, and he locks her in her room for seven years. The last heir, Sir Condy, is a reckless spender whose debts cause him to need to sell the estate. The theme is one of dissolution and ruin under Anglo-Irish lords who care nothing for their tenants and under whom their tenants suffer.

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Another theme is the humanity of the working classes. Thady Quirk, the narrator of the tale, is of the working class, but he shows great loyalty to the estate and his masters. He also displays better sense than the men he serves. Thady express his faith in Sir Kit in the following passage:

"One morning my new master caught a glimpse of me as I was looking at his horse's heels, in hopes of a word from him—and is that old Thady! says he, as he got into his gig—I loved him from that day to this, his voice was so like the family—and he threw me a guinea out of his waistcoat pocket, as he drew up the reins with the other hand, his horse rearing too; I thought I never set my eyes on a finer figure of a man—quite another sort from Sir Murtagh, though withal to me, a family likeness—A fine life we should have led, had he stayed amongst us, God bless him!—"

He blames Sir Kit's failings on his departure from the estate, when Sir Kit marries a Jewish woman with whom he is incompatible. Thady implies that if only Sir Kit had remained on the estate and had not become an absentee landlord, he would have fared well. Edgeworth believes in the ties between tenants and their masters and believes these ties should be benevolent.

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Critical Essays