John Bull's Other Island

by George Bernard Shaw

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

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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