Last Reviewed on September 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 306
Troubles forms the first part of J. G. Farrell's "Empire Trilogy." The story is set in southeast Ireland, mostly within an old hotel called the Majestic. The action takes place during the Irish War of Independence, and the hotel that is central to the story symbolizes the social and political upheaval of the time.
The hotel is the embodiment of the Anglo-Irish bourgeoisie class. It is self-aggrandizing, being called the Majestic, and radiates the arrogant attitude of the British Empire. It symbolizes the historical power and affluence of the empire, which colonized neighbors in the British Isles—such as Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—as well as far-flung regions of the world like India and Burma. The hotel, with its grand architecture and luxurious details, is almost like a replica of Buckingham Palace: both are buildings filled with wealth stolen from colonized territories.
The hotel, however, is crumbling inside and out, thus becoming a metaphor for the British Empire's gradual destruction as it loses more and more territories, the latest one being Ireland. The characters mention the revolution going on outside the hotel doors, but the war itself is not a central theme. By purposefully leaving the war in the background, Farrell subtly criticizes the British Empire's denial of its own collapse.
Instead of blatantly issuing social and political commentary, Farrell uses the claustrophobic and insular atmosphere of the story to critique how out of touch the Anglo-Irish upper class were with the real-world problems going on at their doorstep. Like the characters in the decrepit hotel, the British Empire was living within its own bubble of illusion—the illusion of power. It is useful to read the two other novels of the Empire Trilogy in order to fully grasp the importance of Troubles. Like this novel, the second two offer sharp criticisms of colonialism and oppression.
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