Circle of Friends Analysis
by Maeve Binchy

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Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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Binchy narrates Circle of Friends to slowly and separately expose the lives of different characters. The novel switches focus between Benny's life and the lives of Eve, Nan and Jack. Binchy's characters are multidimensional, illuminating the problems and anguish relevant to the turbulence people in their late teens and early twenties experience.

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In Circle of Friends, Binchy points out the difficulty of finding and keeping true friendship. Benny Hogan discovers real friendship in Eve Malone when they are in a convent school together. Benny and Eve grow up together in the village of Knockglen and their friendship expands to include Nan Mahon and Jack Foley when they go to University College in Dublin.

Binchy explores the issues of premarital sex and abortion from a 1950s Irish perspective, a necessarily more conservative view than 1990s urban America. The three main female characters show different views on premarital sex. Benny and Eve stick to the morals of the Catholic Church and refuse to have sex before marriage. Nan tries to use sex to trap a man. She wishes to get Simon Westwood to marry her so she can have wealth and society, but he turns away from her and their unborn child. Simon wants Nan to get an abortion. She refuses this suggestion. Nan then seduces Jack, the son of a rich doctor, and tricks him into wedding plans; however, the plans become unnecessary because of a miscarriage. Hence, while Binchy's plot upholds the values of the Catholic church, her non-judgmental presentation quietly and somewhat subversively questions these values, particularly suggesting the need for women to make their own choices.

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

While male Irish authors have a long line of literary precedents, Irish female authors have only flourished fairly recently. Virginia Woolf, a British author, often decried the paucity of women writers in general. Binchy and other contemporary Irish women authors such as Edna O'Brien, Julia O'Faolain, Jennifer Johnston, and Clare Boylan (to name a few) owe an allegiance to turn of the century novelist Maria Edgeworth and her domestic saga Castle Rachrent (1800). Other precedents include Edith Somerville and Violet Martin's (E.O.E. Somerville and. Martin Ross) The Real Charlotte (1894), and the writings of the early 1900s of Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O'Brien, Mary Lavin, and Molly Keane.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Circle of...

(The entire section is 580 words.)