6 Pages, Grade: 1,3
Since the Great Famine emigration has been a common choice in Ireland (Averill 31) and therefore a major aspect of Irish life and literature too - but how is this emigration portrayed in literary periods like the Irish Literary Revival? In answering this question this text will focus on the texts of two authors associated with the Irish Literary Revival, George Moore's Home Sickness and James Joyce's Little Cloud. In both stories an emigrant returns to “good old Ireland” and cannot avoid comparing it with the world he discovered beyond the emerald Island. In this way the reader gains insights into the motivations behind emigration and the emotions that are associated with it.
The protagonist of Home Sickness, James Bryden and his perspective of “inverse emigration” (Sheridan) is interesting to focus on, because he is able to simultaneously give a view from the inside and the outside. Initially, he tries to get away from the “long hours of work” (Moore 2000, 23) in America, which caused “a touch of blood-poisoning” (ibid.). When Bryden arrives, “he is in an overwrought, susceptible state“ (Averill 36) and is looking forward to seeing “how the people at home were getting on” (Moore 2000, 21). Soon after his arrival, he hears the story of Michael Scully. This man’s history is thought-provoking for Bryden and he considers embarking on a new chapter in his life and settling down in Ireland (Moore 2000, 22). He has a strong urge to return home permanently, suggesting that the protagonist can be described as an exiled son of Ireland, who finally comes back to the lap of Mother Éire to heal his wounds and start his Irish family.
In the course of the story Bryden's perception of Ireland changes. The longer he stays in Ireland, the less favourable his view of his compatriots becomes. He decided to go there looking for “sufficient distraction for the convalescent” (Moore 2000, 25), but Duncannon is only a place to enjoy nature and one’s own company, not for a social drink and dancing with your girl. When it comes to any action, he is excluded, for example when Bryden offers Mike to help him with the fieldwork (Moore 2000, 25). Ireland is a great please to recover, but it is also a boring place which immobilises those who linger on. He not only gets distracted from suffering, but also from living.
When he gets in touch with the people over there, “all Bryden wanted was to be left alone; he did not to hear of anyone's misfortunes” (Moore 2000, 23). This attitude illustrates the distance between Bryden and his countrymen in two ways. First of all, he does not show any empathy for their sorrows. It merely serves to annoy him and he no longer has any personal relationships or connections to his native home. It is a sign of his distance to the land, although it could also be interpreted as a sign of his flawed character. It is the second aspect which is very interesting: He is the only one in the village who does not engage in gossip. This social behavior is strange to him and he cannot derive any joy from it. He is different from the villagers and therefore he remains “out of place in Ireland” (Averill 37) and even wishes “himself back in the slum” (Moore 2000, 24). Bryden's plan, to get in touch with his roots, shows him instead that he is “disrooted”. The distance between him and the village’s inhabitants is underlined by the narrative perspective and the language used by Moore. “The entire story view is narrated in the third person from Bryden's point of view. As a result the language, though still idiomatic, is closer to standard English and the perspective on Ireland is more distanced” (Averill 36). The language of the short story reinforces the idea that Bryden is different from the real Irish.
The gap between him and the people of Duncannon becomes even bigger in the context of religion. In Bryden's view, they are pathetic in “accepting the priest's opinion without questioning” (ibid.). He subscribes the villagers “weakness and incompetence” (ibid.). Bryden “grows increasingly disenchanted with the submissiveness and apathy of the villagers” (Averill 36) and ultimately, it results in hatred.
Bryden’s aversion towards Ireland makes it impossible for him to settle down there. It is apparent to the reader that Bryden is not prepared to accept limitations of a life in Ireland. In the whole short story he never fully thinks through the idea of returning home. His only chance to escape from his commitments is to escape from Ireland. When he leaves Ireland he gains “a great sense of relief, though he does not admit to himself or Margaret that he will not return” (Averill 37). A refuge providing him with the opportunity to convalesce became twisted into a distracting prison of boredom. His aspiration to get in touch with his roots exposed Bryden to the sad fact that he has been disrooted. His desire to settle down was shattered by his claustrophobic feelings of imprisonment and the insight that he is not ready for any such commitments yet. He totally rejects his Irish identity and commits himself completely to New York as his new home. In this story, for Bryden and for Moore in general “an Irishman must fly from Ireland if he would be himself” (Moore 1920, 3), but the story does not end there.
“Yet his return there does not fully resolve his inner conflict. After his wife has died and his children have married, he is haunted not by memories of his family life but by a memory of Margaret and the village. Moore suggests in the final paragraph that the imagination dwells more on what we have lost than on what we have achieved or possessed.” (Averill 37)
Hence Bryden is unable to be satisfied, neither in Ireland nor in the USA. He is cursed to be a torn character trapped in the paradox of his identity. He no longer feels Irish, but wistfully longs for his identity to be Irish. This means that his pursuit of happiness can never be resolved. Moore created with James Bryden an image of an Irishman who tries to find his “careful balance between the two homelands” (Averill 38) and fails. His emigration back to the USA is an escape which ultimately offers no relief. For one part of him, for his “silent life no one knows but himself” (Moore 2000, 31) it is an exile, while for the rest of him it is a necessary escape.
In James Joyce Little Cloud it is Ignatius Gallaher who has experienced emigration. When he meets the protagonist Little Chandler in Dublin, he describes to his friend the experiences he has had during his journeys (Joyce 65) and it seems that there is another, a real world outside of Dublin and Ireland, which - in contrast to Little Chandler - he has discovered. He has “become a brilliant figure on the London Press” (Joyce 58). Chandler therefore idealises Gallaher “who had succeeded in escaping from the trammels of Dublin” (Short 277) to “an image of masculine freedom, of unrestrained travel.” (Ingersoll 28-29). It is apparent that “if you wanted do succeed you had to go away” (Joyce 60). Ireland is introduced as a place where people stay, if they do not have the qualities to succeed in a better place. Emigration is the logical consequence for those who have the skill for it.
It is Gallaher himself who subscribes Ireland also a positive, a recovering attribute, when he says: “I feel a ton better since I landed again in dear dirty Dublin...” (Joyce 62) and seems to have nostalgic feelings for it. He explains his affection for Dublin with the words: “after all, it's the old country, as they say, isn't it? You can't help having a certain feeling for it. That's human nature...” (Joyce 65). For him his feelings for Ireland are a nostalgic weakness in the human mind and he is aware of his own irrational feelings.
Gallaher left Ireland to make the next step in his personal development. To abandon his home was necessary for that. He now lives the life his friend Chandler – still little, helpless and dependent – is dreaming of and he therefore “rebels against the smallness of his prison-like domestic world” (McCourt 69). Gallaher succeeds, because he dared to take the next step. For him emigration was an escape from a prison for the ingenious.
The characters in the short stories both show a certain sympathy for Ireland when they return. Bryden preserves a “silent life no one knows but himself” (Moore 2000, 31) in Ireland in his imagination, while Gallaher expresses a nostalgic fondness for the old country. While Bryden is a torn character who suffers because of his inability to resolve his own pursuit of happiness, Gallaher explains his irrational feelings with “human nature...” (Joyce 65) and seems to be satisfied with it. In the stories the image of Ireland becomes shadier and shadier, as it increasingly becomes a prison for it inhabitants. In Little Cloud it ends in the paralysis of Little Chandler. First “he rebels against the smallness of his prison-like domestic world” (McCourt 69), then he does not leave Ireland, realizing that he is stuck there, because “his married life is a "prison" or the only reality he should return to” (Sugisaki 13). In Home Sickness it ends in a claustrophobic attack and the eventual escape of Bryden, leaving his fiancee behind. Bryden ultimately finds a new home in New York, feeling “the thrill of home” (Moore 30) there, much as “Gallaher shows off his pro-British sentiments“ (Greco Lobner 75) at the end of the story. Nevertheless the two emigrants still have a certain connection to Ireland. Both describe it as a revitalising quality - but for both a continuous stay is not an option. To stay in Ireland would mean to refuse a development of their character. Kennelly says that the “theme of stagnation is the theme of escape - especially to America, the land of promise where it seems possible to fulfill these aspirations so tragically stifled in Ireland” (Kennelly 153). In both stories the escape from Ireland goes hand in hand with the development of the character.
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