Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 443
In The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, the second novel of the trilogy, Farrell continues the saga. Though the title mentions Studs’s “young manhood,” Farrell depicts his protagonist as a boy in search of manhood. When he and some friends try to enlist in the Army, the recruiter advises them to “get your diapers pinned on,” and when he attempts a holdup, his intended victim states, “Son, you better put that toy away.” Even when Studs is in his twenties, Lucy tells him that he is “just like a little boy,” an image at odds with his created persona.
The self-doubt, fear, and identity problems first mentioned in Young Lonigan are developed in greater detail in the second novel: “He was a hero in his own mind. He was miserable.” As he ages, Studs seems more uncertain of his identity; he sees himself as Lonewolf Lonigan, Yukon Lonigan (an image inspired by a film), and K.O. Lonigan (a boxer), then as Pig Lonigan and Slob Lonigan as his self-pity increases. Studs seems to fear being “found out”; his tough-guy facade crumbles when he is outfought by young Morgan. Although Studs occasionally feels “mushy” when he dates Lucy, his coarse “outer” nature again destroys their relationship, and his contempt for his social-climbing sisters really marks his own sense of inferiority.
While he continues to focus on Studs, Farrell gives his second novel more sociopolitical context than he had included in Young Lonigan. Farrell depicts changing neighborhoods and the heightening of racial tensions, the blacklisting of unionists such as Mr. Le Gare, and the political persecution of “un-American” ideas such as communism. The Irish American community in Chicago, paranoid about race and communism, retreats, as Studs does, to patriotism, white supremacy, and the Church. Farrell suggests, however, through Father Shannon’s morally edifying sermons, that the Church is ineffective—when the religious revival is over, the community’s finest young Catholic men get drunk and look for women. There is little to believe in, as the plight of Danny O’Neill, the young University of Chicago intellectual, suggests: He rejects society’s political and religious values but has nothing with which to replace them.
The novel concludes with a New Year’s party at which Weary Reilley rapes Irene, and a drunken Studs lies in the gutter, leading to his getting pneumonia. This party is followed by an italicized chapter (this novel is more experimental in style, with its snippets of chapters and choruslike, italicized chapters) in which Stephen Lewis, a young black man, reenacts Studs’s behavior in Young Lonigan. Times and characters change, but the behavior, values, and themes remain constant.
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