Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*County Limerick

*County Limerick. County in southwest Ireland, four farms of which are central to O’Faoláin’s family saga, which centers on the age-old struggle to control land. O’Faoláin demonstrates how land, or a lack of land, really, can cause deep family strife because it remains central to Irish survival. The underlying historical cause of contention, which turns family members into enemies, results from Great Britain’s historical colonization of Ireland. As the cultivation of large estates by British landowners left fewer acres for Ireland’s own people to cultivate, and as the Irish population increased, families were pushed to the breaking point to survive.


Bawnrea. Farm into which the novel’s central character, Leo Foxe-Donnel, is born. When his mother, Judith Foxe, marries his father, Long John O’Donnell, she marries down socially from the local estate house, Foxehall. While Long John welcomes his new bride, he welcomes her land, Ahill Farm, even more and mortgages it immediately so he can buy a third farm, New Plot. Ignoring his older brother’s birthright, his mother makes sure that her youngest son, Leo, will inherit the best land. Leo, however, squanders his chances at education, preferring to drink, chase women, and father illegitimate children. Because Leo is privileged, he makes enemies of his brothers, who must spend their life on poorer land, barely scraping out subsistence...

(The entire section is 571 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bonaccorso, Richard. Seán O’Faoláin’s Irish Vision. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1987. A survey of the main phases of O’Faoláin’s career. Evaluates A Nest of Simple Folk in that career. Analysis of the novel concentrates on its treatment of individuality. Includes a comprehensive bibliography.

Doyle, Paul A. Seán O’Faoláin. New York: Twayne, 1968. A general introductory survey of all O’Faoláin’s writings. Discussion of A Nest of Simple Folk deals with its sense of historical context and its narrative development. Contains a chronology and a bibliography.

Harmon, Maurice. Seán O’Faoláin: A Critical Introduction. 2d ed. Dublin: Wolfhound, 1984. An insightful overview of O’Faoláin’s career. Discusses his contributions to Irish intellectual life and his major works. Evaluation of A Nest of Simple Folk is guided by a sense of the conflict between the individual and society in O’Faoláin’s novels. Includes an extensive bibliography.

O’Brien, Conor Cruise. “The Parnellism of Seán O’Faoláin.” In Maria Cross: Imaginative Patterns in a Group of Catholic Writers. 2d ed. London: Burns and Oates, 1963. Intellectually sophisticated, culturally wide-ranging, critically incisive analysis of certain key features in O’Faoláin’s major works, among them history, tradition, and memory. Assesses how these shape the narrative of, and constitute authorial identity in, A Nest of Simple Folk.

O’Faoláin, Seán. Vive Moi! London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1965. The author’s autobiography. Presents prototypes of the landscape, characters, and rural sensibility featured in A Nest of Simple Folk. The contrast between fictional and autobiographical perspectives is critically revealing.