Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Clitheroe apartment

Clitheroe apartment. Two-room apartment of Jack and Nora Clitheroe in an aging Georgian house in a Dublin slum. The place bears the marks of self-conscious gentility, with lofty windows, a fireplace painted to resemble marble, prints on the walls, and delftware decorations. Together these amenities suggest “an attempt toward a finer expression of domestic life” and represent Nora’s aspirations for domestic tranquility.

Public house

Public house. Bar in which the tenement’s inhabitants encounter Dublin’s street life. The place is defined by a large counter, central window, and comfortable booths where patrons engage in barbed conversation. As armchair patriots debate bromides, the voice of an anonymous patriot drifts in from outside. The voice is that of Padraig Pearse, who is delivering an oration on the steps of the General Post Office which proclaimed Ireland’s independence and inaugurated the Easter Uprising. These words are a dramatic counterpoint to the vapidities of the bar’s customers.

Bessie Burgess’s room

Bessie Burgess’s room. Apartment in the Clitheroe building in which another tenant lives. This home, with its “unmistakable air of poverty bordering on destitution,” stands in stark contrast to the Clitheroes’ place. Burgess is hosting a wake for the dead child of another tenant. Once again the actions on the barricaded streets inform life in the building as soldiers battle and a stray bullet kills Burgess.

Sean O’Casey’s Dublin reveals the hard reality of the slums which nurtured him and the desire for national independence. The contrasting idealism of the Clitheroe home and the grimness of Burgess’s apartment underscore the author’s divided attitudes toward Irish patriotism.