BROOKLYN Colm T©ib(n Insight Text Article by Virginia Lee This Insight Text Article is protected by copyright under Australian law. It cannot be copied, transmitted, or placed on the internet (including wikis) or on a school intranet without the written consent of Insight Publications. One complete copy may be printed for the personal use of the individual who has downloaded this Text Article from the Insight Publications website. The Copyright Act (1968) provides that up to 10% of this article may be copied for the purposes of research or study. Copyright @ Insight Publications 201 3 Insight text article on Brooklyn
Article by Virginia Lee Colm T6ib(n Background & context Brooklyn is written by Irish writer Colm Tibin and draws on the experience of Irish immigrants who settled in America in the 1 950s. It is set in Brooklyn, the second-largest and most populous of New York City’s five boroughs. Situated south of Manhattan, at the western end of Long Island, Brooklyn is densely populated and ethnically diverse. Throughout the nineteenth century various groups emigrated from Europe, fleeing poverty and persecution – Russian Jews, Italians, poles, Germans, Scandinavians, and large numbers of Irish – and settled in places such as Brooklyn.
By the 1950s Brooklyn’s Irish population was well established, as second and third generations had intermarried with other migrant groups. In the text, Diana Montini, with her Italian father and Irish mother, exemplifies the mix of ethnicities that lived in the area. All contributed to the multicultural flavour of the city. Certain elements united this eclectic community. A parochial loyalty towards the Brooklyn Dodgers, which Tony Fiorello and his brothers share, was one such element. The Dodgers’ games were held at Ebbets Field and linked the many tribes of Brooklyn in a common, if volatile, allegiance.
The novel also alludes to the shift in Brooklyn’s demographic as its industrial base of manufacturing and shipping started to wane. Many families moved further out, towards the eastern end of Long Island, and the ambitious plans expressed by the Fiorello brothers typify the development that was occurring in such areas at this time. @ Insight Publications 201 3 Eilis Lacey’s arrival in Brooklyn is part of an Irish exodus that saw emigration levels escalate dramatically after World War II. Ireland had officially severed ties with Great Britain and become a republic in 1949.
Nevertheless, its policy f neutrality during the war had been internationally unpopular and had the residual effect of marginalising the country, economically as well as politically. Growth was sluggish and unemployment high. Consequently, many left to find work elsewhere – particularly in nearby England, like Eilis’ brothers, or in America, which was enjoying an economic boom. Reference to the then Irish prime minister, ‰amon de Valera, and his party, Hanna Fil, suggests that Brooklyn is Set between 1951 and 1954.
Structure, language & style Brooklyn is a deceptively simple rite-of-passage novel that explores the ilemma of being an expatriate – of losing one’s home and then losing it a second time. The linear narrative charts Eilis’ journey towards maturity, as well as her literal journey from Ireland to America. The novel is structured around the three distinct phases of this journey: Ireland and the departure for America, America, and Eilis’ return to Ireland. T¶ibin’s precise, restrained prose, unusually, eschews the use of metaphor.
Instead, the writer creates vivid images through his sustained use of detail. No-one reading the description of Eilis’ crossing to America, for example, ould be in any doubt as to the disagreeable nature of travelling third class by boat. Brooklyn is written in the third person, but exclusively from the point of view of the protagonist The intimate sharing of Eilis’ experiences invites empathy from and collusion with the reader in much the same way as a first-person narration might. The story is presented unpretentiously, building momentum and emotional intensity as the narrative unfolds.
We become engaged almost in spite of ourselves. Eilis is an intriguing O Insight Publications 2013 2 heroine – self-effacing and guarded. She reveals herself through what she oes and what she says to others – or sometimes does not say – rather than through any specific information she discloses about herself. Characters & relationships Eilis Lacey Initially, Eilis’ role is a passive one – immigrating to America is entirely her sister’s initiative. As Rose and her mother collude with Father Flood, Eilis feels ‘like a child’ (p. 23) whose fate is being decided without her Input.
Somehow it is tacitly arranged’ (p. 23) that she will leave Ireland. Eilis loves her family too much to challenge the proposal, however resistant she might feel privately. Eilis’ independence and resilience are revealed gradually. Thrown onto her own resources, she has to exercise her own judgement and make critical choices with little guidance or support. In some cases ” the most obvious being her premature marriage – she makes mistakes. While her instincts are usually correct, she does not always have the confidence to act on them.
Nevertheless, Eilis’ time in America encourages her to be more assertive, a quality clearly displayed when she puts the officious Sheila Heffernan in her place. Eilis matures and grows as the narrative unfolds. Her initial naivety is balanced by natural curiosity and a hunger to learn. When she returns to Enniscorthy, she slips back into the rhythm of the town easily and finds comfort in its familiar faces and rituals. Yet the changes produced by her experiences in America are obvious to all: ‘Everything about you is different’ (p. 230), Eilis’ friend Nancy tells her.
Eilis’ poise and selfpossession intimidate her mother, whose strategy is to ignore pointedly any reference to her daughters new life. Jim Farrell, on the other hand, is smitten. O Insight Publications 201 3 3 Throughout the text, Eilis’ actions are informed by the twin values of connection to family and a clearly defined sense of duty. Her generosity is a constant, and Tony rightly calls her ‘a good person’ (p. 1 96). Yet the internal conflict generated by her return home causes her to lie by omission and to behave with great cruelty towards the unsuspecting Jim.
Her bitter knowledge that first love is transient highlights the shadow that has always lurked on the edge of her relationship with Tony. By contrast, her feelings for Jim, born out of common values and a shared culture, carry greater promis while Eilis flirts with the idea Of divorce, she never seriously possibility of staying in Ireland. In accepting that she has dont foolish and hurtful’ (p. 237), she retains her essential integrity sympathy. Tony Fiorello Tony is an engaging young man who radiates warmth and go is immediately drawn to him: ‘He was not like anyone else shf (p. 139).
Miss Fortini is so impressed by Tony’s qualities that sl to hold on to him: ‘There aren’t two of him. Maybe in Ireland, (p. 141 Tony makes it clear from the start that he is serious with rega ready to settle down and, with his brothers, has ambitious pli future. While he is tactful and considerate enough not to rust he wants more emotionally than she is ready to give. She is fr ntensity and understands that he is ‘moving faster’ than her ( he is anticipating a different outcome from the one she envisi from the implication that she might be a permanent exile anc the only life she was going to have’ (p. 43). Despite his love for her, Tony acts selfishly towards Eilis wher into marriage. Ultimately, neither of their interests is served commitment. O Insight Publications 2013 4 Father Flood Father Flood plays a pivotal role in Eilis’ new life. By extension the influence exercised by the Catholic Church on devout Catl the Laceys. It is Father Flood who sponsors Eilis’ immigration e subsequently acts as her mentor in Brooklyn.