The Commitments

by Roddy Doyle

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 329

The Commitments by Roddy Doyle centers on a group of Irishmen who decided to start a soul band. The premise itself explores the history of African-American music in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In northern England, the term "northern soul" referred to bands that were heavily influenced by rock and roll, rhythm & blues, soul, and the Motown sound. Famous rock bands like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and Cream cite several African-American musicians as major influences. In Ireland, an appreciation for African-American music was prevalent during the twentieth century. The story of the men starting a soul band in Dublin highlights the effects of globalization and American pop culture.

The book is a portraiture of a particular period in Ireland, specifically the 1980s. The setting of the story is also important in that it sheds light on inner-city Dublin. Whilst not blatantly political, the book contains subtle socioeconomic commentary, especially in relation to contemporary events going on at the time in Ireland and the world at large.

Other insights found in the book include the fragility of personal relationships when ego and money are involved. As the band finds more success after struggling to get gigs, attain radio play, and secure record deals, it becomes more difficult for them to suppress egotism. Jealousy and animosity among certain members of the band are prevalent, especially when it comes to their relationships with the female backup singers. This shows that the men are still immature and cannot handle a professional career as big-time musicians just yet.

In the end, they break up when one member goes off to America with a female member of the group. However, the rest of the members decide to continue their music aspirations, this time by trying punk rock and country. This shows that their bond is stronger than trivial animosities and rivalries, and that their friendship was the true foundation of the band, as opposed to their collective dream of becoming famous.

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