Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 309

John Bull’s Other Island is ultimately a consideration of cultural identity and heritage. The main character, Larry Doyle, is an Irishman who is infatuated with British identity and culture. He finds appeal in the fast paced life that is money focused and he moves to London. There he meets Tom Broadbent, a charming and untrustworthy British businessman. The two own a firm together as civil engineers. The story highlights the biased views many British have of Ireland. Through the character of Broadbent, Ireland is positioned as a country full of poor farmers who have yet to learn the civilized ways of development. Broadbent moves their business back to Doyle’s hometown and looks forward to saving the poor farmers from themselves. While there, he grows to fall in love with the land and a young lady there (who is, in actuality, waiting for Doyle’s return). Doyle continues to have distaste for his homeland. He sees the farmers as useless and the land drab. He yearns for the city of London. Father Keegan is the town’s priest who confronts Doyle about his rejection of Irish identity. Keegan has an immediate distrust of Broadbent and makes clear that he does not have the town’s best intentions in mind. Despite Keegan’s distrust, the other town’s people take to Broadbent. He runs for office and starts to take control of the town. This in many ways is a cautionary tale about colonialism and self-hate. Doyle puts his town in harms way by befriending Broadbent, who is written as a greedy colonizer. Broadbent’s plans to turn the town into an amusement park are revealed. He aims to build a hotel and golf course. The story ends with Keegan encouraging Doyle to return to his Irish heritage and reject the British culture which is working to destroy them.

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The Play

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1134

Act one opens in the Westminster office-cum-bachelor rooms of Broadbent and Doyle, civil engineers. Tom Broadbent, very much the cheery, beef-fed John Bull, just back from a trip, instructs his valet, Hodson, to pack their bags for Ireland. He inquires whether anyone has called while he was away. Only an Irishman named Haffigan, replies Hodson, so disreputable that the punctilious valet showed him the door. However, Broadbent expresses an enthusiastic desire to see him. At that moment, fortuitously, Haffigan calls again.

Seedy, red-nosed, and possessed of a “rollicking stage brogue,” Haffigan rapidly downs half a pint of Broadbent’s whiskey, borrows five pounds, and arranges to accompany him to Rosscullen, Ireland, where Broadbent intends to develop an estate for the Land Development Syndicate. Convinced of the benefits of English efficiency, Broadbent is elated to think he will thereby also do some good for the downtrodden Irish. He wants Haffigan, as a typical Irishman (a role Haffigan is playing to the hilt), to promote the project among his countrymen.

Their tête-à-tête is interrupted by the arrival of Broadbent’s friend and partner. With Haffigan gone, Laurence Doyle exposes Broadbent’s folly in taking for the genuine article a Glasgow con artist with incipient delirium tremens—a folly entirely dependent on Broadbent’s subscribing to all the myths about the improvident, genial, and melancholy Irish-Celtic character. That character, says Doyle, is an invention of the English music hall. The real Irish character is bred by Ireland’s misty climate: The Irishman, says Doyle, himself in a “passionate dream,” is a hopeless dreamer whose dreams condemn him to perpetual squalor. Hence Doyle’s fear of returning; furthermore, Rosscullen is his birthplace, where Nora Reilly still waits for him. Broadbent nevertheless persuades him to come.

The scene changes to the open countryside...

(The entire section contains 2110 words.)

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