Themes

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Insulating Effect of Social Class

Edward Spencer's decaying hotel, aptly called the Majestic, is central to the story and can be considered a primary character in the narrative, as the majority of the plot takes place within the walls of the hotel. The Majestic represents the privileged upper class and, more specifically, the affluent Anglo-Irish people living in Ireland, who in turn represent the colonial power of the British Empire. Just outside of the hotel, a revolution is taking place, and the masses on the streets represent the lower-class citizenry of Ireland fighting for their liberation from the grips of the English aristocrats. The hotel insulates the occupants within its walls from the chaos outside, which is a metaphor for the affluent Anglo-Irish citizens who are out of touch with the common people's struggles. The main characters are affluent or formerly affluent people, and they comically try to fix the once-grand hotel's structural issues in the same way the British elite desperately try to quell the working-class people's revolution.

The Failure of Imperialism

The novel is set during the Irish War of Independence, and Farrell makes subtle but nuanced criticisms of the British Empire. The hotel is a symbol of the rich Anglo-Irish elite—who represent the opponents of the Irish revolutionaries—and is literally falling apart. It is a metaphor for the British Crown's loosening grip on Ireland. The novel is part of Farrell's "Empire Trilogy," and the trio of novels all comment on the British Empire's failing colonial program.

The Problematic Nature of Inheritance

Angela Spencer, the daughter of the hotel's owner, is trying to save the hotel's physical and historical legacy by attempting to keep it in operation. More importantly, by trying to maintain the hotel, she is actually trying to save her family's finances and reputation. She inherited the administrative duties from her father and is thus trying to continue a family legacy. In the same vein, the British Empire perceives its colonies—which include Ireland at the time—as its proverbial children. The war between the English and the Irish revolutionaries is similar to the way in which Angela is trying to hold on to what power is left to her in her own life. Colonial territories are a form of inheritance that the royal family pass on to the next generation; however, during the twentieth century, this archaic policy began to succumb to the people's passion for freedom and independence.

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