Cal; Bernard Mac Laverty


Mini Summary

The story "CAL" by Bernard Mac Laverty takes place in Northern Ireland (Ulster). The young Irishman Cal lives alone with his father Shamie (both are Catholics) in a town near Belfast in which mainly Protestants live. Cal's mother died when he was 8 years old.
Life there isn't easy for Cal. Additionally, Cal sympathizes with the IRA (= Irish Republican Army). Together with his friends Crilly and Skeffington, who are members of the IRA, too, Cal plans criminal acts. Another problem for him is being out of work. So he has time enough to visit the library. One day when he's there to borrow a book he sees a woman, Marcella. He falls in love with her and must always think of this woman. Marcella is much older than Cal, she is a widow and has a daughter. Because of being unemployed Shamie offers Cal a little job: he asks him to sell some wood. Cal accepts and so he tries to sell as much wood as possible. Cal drives to a farm which belongs to the Mortons. There a woman buys the trees or rather logs and asks him to cut them into smaller pieces.
A bit later the woman turns out to be Marcella's mother-in-law. The Mortons offer Cal a job on the farm. He has a chance to see Marcella every day! With working on the farm he gets more and more in contact with the Morton family and falls in love with Marcella. But there is something threatening in the air: Cal took part in the murder of her husband by driving the car for the murderer. Nobody knows this.
Time passes and Cal tries to separate from his "friends" Crilly and Skeffington and the IRA after having been the driver for some of their illegal activities. Later in the story Shamie's and Cal's house is burned down by militant Protestants, so Cal lives secretely in a derelict building on the farm. When the Mortons discover it, he's allowed to stay there.
At the end of the story Marcella falls in love with Cal and both become lovers until finally the police arrest him.


Chapter 1

Summary (a)

In chapter 1 of Bernard Mac Laverty's Cal, we get our first information about the protagonist Cal McCluskey. The story takes place in Northern Ireland not far from Belfast. He and his father Shamie, who are both Catholics, live in an estate of Protestants. His father has a job in an abattoir as a slaughter. Cal doesn't like to be in the abattoir because of the smell there, which he can't stand. Cal himself tries to get in contact with a woman called Marcella.

He goes to the library where Marcella works only to see her. Afterwards he gets the information from his father that her name is Marcella Morton. Cal remembers what he and Crilly, an old school friend, did to her husband one year ago. Cal has a guilty conscience because of that.

In chapter 1, Cal and his father Shamie get the second warning from the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force, a militant Unionist group), but it is the first warning mentioned to the reader. The warning says that they should move away as soon as possible otherwise they will be burned out. But Shamie doesn't want to move, he even says: "No loyalist bastard is going to force me out of my home. They can kill me first." This statement is typical of Shamie and his cussedness.

The chapter ends with Cal lying in his bed and dreaming of a beautiful woman falling out of the window and he cannot prevent her fall.

Summary (b)

This story tells us about Cal and his father Shamie, who are living as the only Catholics in a protestant area in Northern Ireland. Cal is a young man, who is unemployed and searching for a job, after he had quit his work at the abattoir, where he worked together with his father. One day Cal visits the library to get some new tapes, and when he enters he sees an attractive woman standing behind the counter. She seems very familiar to him and he finds out that her name's `Marcella', which upsets him a lot, and he gets very nervous thinking about her and he says `I need to make it all up to her'. The day after Cal visits the library again, just to get a glance at Marcella, he gets in a little fight with his Dad and he thinks a lot about this guy `Crilly', who he went to school with, who is in the same gang as Cal and who now has his job at the abattoir. Cal wants to tell Crilly that he wants to quit the gang, because he can't take it anymore. The gang meets up at a member's house to have some teat and talk about their activities and they tell Cal that they need him as a driver. The next day Cal waits in front of the library for Marcella, and when she leaves the library she looses a package of her groceries- Cal picks it up and carries it for her to her car and so he makes contact to her again. Being back again at his house he finds a sheet of paper in his doorway, which says that he and his father should leave the house or the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Federation) would burn it down. Cal wakes his father, he shows him the threat and they prepare everything to be ready if the house starts burning. (They get out a gun, which they got from Crilly, and fill the bath tub with water.) This night Cal thinks a lot about Marcella, and about the first threat they got from UVF and about Crilly again. He can't sleep, so Cal gets up to get a cup of tea together wit his Dad and they talk about important things and the reader gets to know that Cal's mother died when he was eight years old and that his only brother was killed in an car-accident years before.

Summary (c)

The main character in the book is Cal Mc Cluskey, a 19-year-old Catholic man.His mother died when he was 8 years
old but he remembers her and what she has said to him very often. Cal is unemployed because he gave up the work in
the abattoir where his father works. He couldn`t stand the unpleasant smell there.
Cal lives with his father Shamie in a Protestant area where they are the only Catholic family but Shamie nerver wants to
move away. He says: „ No loyalist bastard is going to force me out of my home. They can kill me first.“This shows the
Mc Cluskey`s strong will of resistance. Although there are some threatening letters and violent attacks from members of
the Protestant UVF they don`t give up their home.
Sometimes Cal goes to the library. Recently there is a new woman working and as Cal hears her name he is very
astonished and wants to know more about this person. Her name is Marcella, she is a 28-year-old Catholic woman,
she is friendly to anybody but also shy and sceptical and she has got a daughter (Lucy) .There is a link between her and
Cal but the reader learns the details not before the third chapter. What the reader learns is that Cal goes very often to
the library just to see Marcella and not to lend out a book. Eventually he is falling in love with Marcella but she doesn`t
recognize it at that time.
Apart from her there are other persons who influence Cal`s life:
Crilly, a schoolmate and not a real friend and Skeffington, a local IRA leader control Cal`s life. They are unscrupulous
and they need Cal as driver to be able to commit crimes. With his connection to these people Cal also belongs to the
IRA. In his mind he want`s to quit this brutal organization but in reality he would be a dead man if he quits because he
could betray Crilly and Skeffington to the police and they would be arested. So Cal has to live in the consciousness that
he is controlled by the IRA.

Chapter 2

Summary (a)

In chapter 2 Cal goes to church where he can see Marcella, the woman he is obviously very interested in. While the people are praying, Cal thinks about his relationship to his mother during his childhood.

After the service in church on his way to Clones in the Republic or Ireland, where he wants to watch the Ulster football final, he experiences a feeling of freedom, which he doesn't know from Protestant Ulster.

During a break in the game he meets Skeffington, who asks him about his dad and Crilly.

On the following days he often goes to the library, where Marcella works with only one intention: to see her beautiful smile.

One day his father tells him that he spoke to Pascal O'Hare, a friend of his. There are a couple of dead trees on O'Hare's land which are in his way and Shamie bought them for next to nothing.

Cal's dad asks him to drive around with the van trying to sell the chunks of wood. Cal drives to Morton's farm. There he gets in contact with old Mrs. Morton who buys the chunks of wood from him on the condition that Cal is going to split them up for her. On the next day Cal does it, hoping to see Marcella. When he is paid Mrs. Morton asks him whether he's interested in having a job on the farm.

So Cal starts working there, helping to harvest the potatoes together with a lot of other people. After a couple of days the potatoes have all been dug up but he's offered to work on the farm permanently. During all these days Cal hasn't seen Marcella, but he gets to know Dunlop, the Protestant foreman on the farm.

Summary (b)

Sundays Cal normally goes to church in his area, but this certain Sunday he sleeps in and so he has to go to a neighbouring church. There he sees Marcella and her little child again and at the end of the service he walks very close behind her, what he enjoys a lot. Cal drives to Clones, to the place he calls `real Ireland', to watch a football game and there he meets Skeffington, another gang-member. The following week Cal stalked Marcella nearly every second day, he's playing guitar, smoking and cooking for his dad. Every day his father tells him to call Crilly, but Cal refuses with a terrible feeling in his stomach. One day his Dad returns from work and tells Cal, that he's bought some trees and that Cal should help him cutting them into blocks and sell them to get some extra-money. Cal does his job and he decides to sell the blocks to the farm where Marcella lives- (that's a big deal, because he's a Catholic and the farm where Marcella lives is known as to be protestant) Cal sells all of the blocks to an old lady living at this farm and she asks him to work the next day too, to make the blocks smaller and to collect his money. On his way home Cal gets beaten up by some protestants, but he's able to flee before they hurt him really badly. Cal suggests his Dad to give in and leave the protestant area, but his Dad refuses and suggests Cal to go away for two or more weeks. The next day Cal, after taking a long relaxing bath, finishes his work, and he accidentally sees that the husband of this old lady is very sick. The day he works at the farm he meets Marcella and an old protestant friend -Cyril, who works at the farm. The lady asks Cal to help them for little money to lift potatoes at their fields. Cal agrees, because it is better than doing nothing and so he goes to lift up potatoes with a lot of other people for three days. After those three days the old lady asks Cal to work permanently at the farm and Cal agrees again.

Summary (c)

One day Cal is offered some wood by a friend of the family. That`s a good opportunity for Cal to make some money. He
sells the wood to the Mortons, a protestant farmer family in order to split and stack the wood too. So he sees Marcella
more often because she is living with the Mortons in the same house. Some days later Cal is offered a fulltime job on
the Moton`s farm since he does his work with the wood very hardworking.
One evening on his way back from the Morton`s farm Cal is attacked and hurt by three same-aged Protestants. With
their bodily attack they want to force the Mc Cluskeys to move away from the Protestant area but Cal says that he and
his father Shamie will never leave.

Chapter 3

Summary (a)

At the beginning of this chapter Cal tells his father about his new job at the Mortons' farm where he helps his foreman Dunlop. Cal thinks it to be a topic he and his father can talk about. Cal feels nervous because he gets the news that Crilly has asked for him. Later he visits him. Crilly and Skeffington want Cal to drive the car when Crilly robs a shop. Cal agrees but he makes sure that he only drives the car!

He gets to know Skeffington's father. Furthermore Cal and Skeffington are talking about Cal's intention to leave the organization but Skeffington explains to him that he will be a part of the problem if he gets out.

Later Cal goes into the library again where he meets Marcella. They have a short conversation and Cal borrows a book. When he wants to go home he sees their house burning. Cal is very afraid and nervous because he fears his father might still be in the house. After a moment he sees him and both are very happy. This night they sleep in the house of Cal's father's cousin.

Cal asks his father to do him a favour. He wants to leave his home and does not want his father to tell Crilly about it.

In chapter 3 there is also described how Crilly shot Marcella's husband one year before. Cal was the driver of the car.

Summary (b)

Cal's Dad is very happy that his son finally got a job, but then he tells him that Cal has to go and visit Crilly instantly. They are having a cup of tea while watching the news, Cal takes a bath and then he walks down to Crilly's home. Crilly tells Cal that de has to give him a ride to the other side of town to get a gun and so they start at nine o clock pm to do their thing. Crilly and Cal get a gun, they drive to a store and within 2 or three minutes Crilly robs it and gets a bag full of money. He offers Cal some for his effort, but Cal refuses to take it and so Crilly just throws it into Cal's lap. Instead of going to a pub they stop off at Skeffington's house, get a drink there and get to know Skeffingtons Dad, who is a very old and reserved man. They count 722 pounds and discuss who they should give the money to, who needs it the most. Cal is still sure that he wants to quit the gang because people get hurt, although the gang `helps' other Catholic families with their robberies. Crilly and Skeffington try to persuade Cal with arguments like `Not being part of the solution is being part of the problem.' etc. but Cal still sees no point in it. He detests killing people for any reason! Cal starts working at the farm and he likes it better than the work at the abattoir, although he doesn't know a lot about farm-work. Cal's a little disappointed because he doesn't get to see Marcella. To overcome this situation he goes to her church the following Sunday, but unfortunately she isn't there. Cal doesn't give up and goes to the library one night and there he sees Marcella again and she is able to convince him to take out a book this time and not, as usual, tapes. When Cal returns his house is burning and his father is sitting in front of it crying. Shamie is very afraid that the police will find the gun and so Cal decides to search the house. Luckily he finds the gun and brings it to his father. Cal and Shamie aren't insured and so they have nothing left, but they hope that the government will compensate them for being attacked by protestants. Cal decides this night to disappear and stay in an old cottage near the farm. He doesn't tell his father where he'll go, he just wants to be away. When he spends the first night in the cottage he thinks about that evening, when Crilly, the gang and he killed a police-man, who turned out to be Marcellas husband: After getting an alibi at a dance, they stole a car and Cal drove them to the Morton farmhouse. Crilly walked up to the door, rang the bell and shot Mr. Morton when he was opening the door. Cal heard Mr. Morton saying the name of his wife `Mar-cell-a'. After a few miles they set the stolen car on fire and Cal returned to the dance with shaking hands and white as chalk and tried to be seen for his alibi.

Summary (c)

Some days later Crilly contacts Cal to tell him about a raid on a shop to help Catholics with the stolen money. As usually
Cal drives the car and Crilly commits the raid. But Cal has bad feeling while and after the raid and his desire to quit the
IRA rises constantly. Otherwise there is his great wish to get closer to Marcella so he visits her in the library again.
While talking to Marcella Cal hears a sirene which sounds from the area where he lives. As he runs out of the library he
notices that their house is burning. Arriving there he hears from a fireman that it has been a burning attack, probably by
Protestants. Shamie has only a little shock.
After that burning attack Cal and Shamie can stay with a relativ. Being affraid of Crilly and Skeffington and their IRA
crimes Cal decides to live and hide in a small abandoned cottage which belongs to the Morton`s farm. Now in the
middle of the story the reader learns about the secret link between Cal and Marcella. It comes to the reader in form of a
flashback when Cal lies in his hiding-place:
Some years ago he has driven a stolen car when Crilly has killed the police-officer Robert Morton who had been
Marcella`s husband.
Cal has been trying to cope with his guilt but now as he is so close to the victim`s wife his consciousness of his guilt is
getting much worse.

Chapter 4

Summary (a)

In chapter 4 Cal continues to live in the cottage. The only thing that is left to him is to watch Marcella from the cottage. One night he observes her through the window, although he knows that he could lose his job and the chance to be near her. Cal feels sad and depressed because he remembers the thing he did one year ago to her husband and that because of this he isn't allowed to love her.

In the same night the Army invades the cottage and orders Cal to follow them to the Morton farm-house. Someone saw him lighting a cigarette, thought of another terrorist attack and called the police.

Mrs. Morton allows him to live in the cottage, because they have to get it bricked up if nobody lives there. Cal is happy and from this point on he gets closer to Marcella. She often visits him and they talk a lot or have a cup of tea together. Moreover they talk about the death of her husband and Cal even gets some of his clothes. Cal decides to discipline himself and wants to stop smoking.

He learns that Marcella feels unhappy and that she wants to get out of the house. Cal always listens to her. One day he visits his father who doesn't feel well. His father tells him that Skeffington has been there. Later Marcella and Cal have a date to collect some blackberries, accompanied by Marcella's daughter. They spend a nice afternoon together but at the end they hear an explosion.

Cal runs to the field where it took place and sees a dead cow lying in the grass.

Summary (b)

Cal continues to live in the small cottage for a fortnight, without being able to take a bath, change his clothes or brush his teeth with toothpaste. He feels very dirty and he's worried about his looks, because he starts to grow a black beard, and his teeth seem to feel yellow. (Although he is brushing them with a mixture of ashes and salt, like his mother taught him). One night he sees a light in the Morton's farmhouse, and he realises that Marcella is going to take a bath. He carefully creeps to the window and watches Marcella preparing for the bath. He gets to see a part of her naked body, and he feels very guilty that he is watching her without her permission, and therefore he walks back to the cottage. Cal lights a match to smoke a cigarette. All of a sudden somebody kicks the door open and it's terrible bright in the cottage. There is screaming and yelling and some men of the police yell at Cal and tell him that the Morton's called the police, because they saw the light in the cottage. Cal tries to explain his situation to them and finally they walk him to the Morton's, where Marcella and her mother-in-law give an `ok' to the police and after signing some papers they leave. Cal explains everything to the Morton's, they tell him about their fear since Mr. Morton was killed, but in the end Marcella convinces her mother-in-law that Cal is allowed to live in the cottage. The next day he gets some old furniture from the farm and Marcella, her daughter Lucy and Cal are busy moving things around and they talk about everything and nothing. Cal gets second-hand clothes from Marcellas dead husband, she washes his clothes and at night he sits useless in his new home. Cal feels very safe from the outside world and thinks about the times, when his Mom was still alive until he falls asleep into a night filled with nightmares. The other night Marcella admits to Cal how much she dislikes seeing Mr. Morton suffering, and how she needs to get out of the farm and how it isn't easy to live with Mrs. Morton and her Parkinson disease. Sunday he goes to church with Marcella and one day he gets a lift to town to see his Dad from Dunlop and on their way Dunlop explains his idea of this `Ireland-war' to Cal. Cal finds his Dad as a broken man, who is apathetic sitting in his chair crying and Cal tells Shamie to see a Doctor instantly. Shamie agrees and tells Cal that Skeffington came one day to ask for him and that Crilly asks Shamie nearly every day if he knows where his son is. Cal's worried about his Dad and about those guys asking for him and again Cal doesn't tell his Dad where he lives. Marcella gives Cal a lift home and on their way they stop to get a drink in a bar and they get more familiar to each other. Saturday they take a walk to collect blackberries, nearly like a small family, Lucy holding hands between her Mom and Cal. Cal feels like confessing his terrible sin to her, but in fear of loosing her sympathy, he remains silent with a bad feeling in his stomach. When they return to the farm all of a sudden they hear an explosion and fall down to the earth. Marcella and Lucy run home and Cal goes to see what happened, and he finds a half of a cow, which stepped on a mine, lying in the grass.

Summary (c)

The Mortons don`t know that Cal lives in the cottage. As they recognize that there is somebody in it they call the police.
But later they can clear up the situation and the Mortons make Cal to a tendant of the cottage. So Cal has a short way
to his work on the farm, a hiding-place and more opportunity to see Marcella. Cal lost almost everything by the burning
attack so there is a lack in clothes too. Therefore Marcella gives him some clothes of her dead husband. Cal feels
strange when he wears them because the clothes remind him of the terrible deed. During the day Cal forgets his guilt
for the most time but at night when he is alone in the dark cottage he is tormented by his guilt and persuited by
nightmares. He longs for Marcella but he doesn`t know how to apologize to her. Nevertheless Cal spends more and
more time with Marcella and gets closer to her.

Chapter 5

Summary (a)

Marcella's mother-in-law is in Belfast for a week because there the old Mr. Mortonhas to have another operation on his lungs. Thus, Cal and Marcella are alone in the Mortons' house and they have the time to get to know each other more intimately. Marcella invites Cal to dinner and they have a nice evening together. For the first time Cal kisses Marcella. At first Marcella does not know if she is allowed to love Cal but later her feelings are changing and they are spending nice days together.

But the wonderful time goes by when Cal meets Crilly. Crilly and Skeffington want to blow up the library and they want Cal to help them.

Just when they are planning their project at Crilly's home the police arrives. After a long chase Crilly and Skeffington are arrested by the police, Cal succeeds in escaping and goes back to the cottage. But a few days later the police finds Cal in the cottage and he is arrested.

Summary (b)

For the next six weeks Cal hardly sees Marcella, because the weather isn't too good and so he can't find an excuse for spending time with her, except on Halloween when they watch the fireworks in the sky. The only time he sees Marcella is on Sundays, when they drive together to church. One week everybody, except Marcella, leaves for being with Mr. Morton in Belfast for an operation. During the afternoon, when Cal is still alone, he wanders through the farm and up to Marcellas room and he feels his huge love, his obsession, for her and his big sin within him, which makes it impossible to be together with her. Searching through her stuff he finds an old diary, from Marcellas schooldays and he reads a few pages, understanding nothing. The diary-entries ended more than a year ago, so he can't find anything about him, but he finds negative entries about Robert, Marcellas dead husband. When Marcella comes home he attempts to leave the farm, but she invites him to come over for an Italian dinner tonight. After having a romantic dinner, drinking some vine and other alcoholic beverages they sit in front of the fireplace and Marcella tells Cal again, how much she hates living with Roberts family and how terrible her marriage to Robert was. Encouraged by the ambience and the alcohol Cal kisses Marcella and she replies his kisses until she tells him to go home, for the better of them two. Cal's disappointed and he doesn't see Marcella a lot until, one night, she knocks on his door and asks him for forgiveness for what happened the other night. She brings him some punch and after kissing he again, she takes off her clothes and jumps into his bed. Cal looses his virginity that night and back in the farm they have sex again, and Cal tells Marcella that he really loves her. The next day he drives to town to do some Christmas-shopping and as he drops by his fathers cousin to visit his Dad, the man tells him that his father was brought to an insane-asylum to Gransha. To pass some time Cal goes to the library and there he accidentally meets Crilly who shows him a time-bomb enclosed in a book. Cal's terrified, because the library is Marcellas only shelter. Crilly tells Cal that Skeffington's Dad was knocked down by a car and that Crilly and Skeffington avenged the driver by crushing both of his knees. Then they walk to Skeffington and as soon as Cal tells them that it was stupid of them to do that, because the police could find out who hurt the driver, they hear the noise of a Land Rover- the polices car. All three of them run outside the house and try to flee, but only Cal is successful and the other two are caught by the police. Cal telephones the police anonymously and tells them about the bomb in the library and then walks as casually as he can back to the farm. Marcella welcomes him, he gives her the Christmas-presents for herself and her little girl and they make love. Marcella tells Cal her worries that Robert's family is coming home the next day and that her life will be the same dull style again. Cal just thinks about Crilly and Skeffington, if they will tell the police his name. After having dinner they make love again, Cal walks home to his cottage and the next morning the police arrests him without having told Marcella his big secret.

Summary (b)

One evening they have their first romantical rendezvous. Then Cal kisses her for the first time but Marcella shows
clearly her rejection towards the kiss. Consequently Cal is very frustrated and loses all his hope for a happy future with
The next day something unexpected happens: Marcella apologizes for her aversion and then they have sex together.
But Cal can`t really enjoy it because he always remembers the terrible murder of Robert.
An other day Crilly meets Cal accidentally and tell him that they will burn down the library with atime bomb. So Cal
gives an anonymous warning to the police to rescue Marcella.
At Crilly`s house Cal announces that he doesn`t want to be involved in the crimes of the IRA any time longer. But
Skeffington and Crilly threaten him again to be killed if he quits the Movement. The conversation is interrupted by a
sudden police search who finally arrest Skeffington and Crilly. Only Cal manages to escape unseen by hiding in the
But only one day later Cal is also arrested without having confessed the murderer and his involvement in the IRA to



When you start reading this story you get the impression that Cal is a bit introverted. One reason for this assumption could be that Cal doesn't speak much at the beginning of the story.

A bit later we learn that Cal's mother died when he was 8 years old. You realize that he misses his mother. One night he dreams of her. The dream deals with him being afraid and her reassuring him.

A situation like that shows us how important a loving mother is, especially when you are depressed. It doesn't matter how old you are.

After having lost his mother Cal tries to find a kind of family-substitute. To this "family" his friends Crilly and Skeffington belong, perhaps the IRA, too. They often spend time together, because of being unemployed Cal has enough time. When they meet at Crilly's house, Crilly's mother often comes in to bring tea or something else. Then Crilly and Skeffington seem to be annoyed but Cal is always nice to her and friendly. He likes to be near women. Contacts with women are pleasant for him.

Later in the story he sees Marcella for the first time. He admires her and falls in love (cf. Relationship Cal - Marcella). She is Cal's first love and the only person who is able to bridge the distance between Cal and women. Cal finds a mother and later a girlfriend in Marcella who is a widow and has a little daughter.

When they become lovers at the end of the story, Cal becomes a father figure for the child.

The whole story and the persons' feelings deal with gaining and losing. We also learn that the family, surroundings and the political atmosphere influence a character.


Marcella's family comes from Italy. She is small, dark-haired and she has brown eyes. About five years before the beginning of the story, she married Robert Morton, a Protestant from Ulster. Marcella herself is a Catholic. Since her husband was murdered by militant Catholics, Marcella lives with her little daughter Lucy in the farmhouse of her parents-in-law.

Marcella is very beautiful and attractive. She works in a library to get out of her boring life at home. She is discontent with her life because she feels alone with her thoughts and problems. Here you can see that she is very sensitive.

Marcella has a very good character. She wants to help other people and she is very friendly to everyone.

Sometimes she thinks that she doesn't behave like a good widow should and so she feels guilty.

She has got a lot of dreams about her future and when Cal comes into her life she finally finds a good friend to talk to. Later she even falls in love with him but she is afraid of what other people could say about their age-difference.


Shamie Mc Cluskey is fighting to live his life. For me his story is a tragedy. He is known as a good man (page 5, ll.19 ) but he is a Catholic. The way he lives seems to keep him alive avoiding not to get crazy about his life. His first son died in a car crash and he hadn't enough money for attending the funeral (page 27, ll.8 ). But that is not enough, his wife died, too, and just because of being a Catholic the UVF wants to burn down his home (page 21, ll.22). Any other man would get his stuff together and move house, not Shamie, he stays( page 5, line 8): "No Loyalist bastard is going to force me out of my home. They can kill me first."

In this passage he seems to be very strong but the troubles just broke him. On page 10 for example the reader gets to know that in some way Shamie accepted the civil war because he tells Cal to ignore the "Yahoos" outside (ll. 4 ).

I think this is a good example of the schizophrenia of Shamie. On the one hand he can't understand it and fights for his honor for a little fairness in his life. He said that it caused him a lot of embarrassment that Cal quit his job at the abattoir and therefore Crilly got it (page 13 ll.11). But on the other hand he seems to be desinterested and it seems that he has already given up the fight. The case which broke him was the fire in his house (page 65). Shamie believed that he would lose his second son, too, and he would be alone.This experience was too much for him, he started to cry, maybe he cried for the first time in his life on the street. After this occasion he can't go on, he isn't able work on, that's why he spends so much time at his cousin's home just sitting in an armchair and thinking about his life. During this time he gives his fight up, caused by the fact that Cal, his last son, left him. Although Cal didn't die, it is really hard for Shamie, because he left without giving an address to him. From my point of view Shamie is the only one who tries to live an honest life and to fight toughly through. For me he is the character with whom the author shows the violence and the unfairness of war. This war makes even a good man break down.

Shamie's story shows that nobody with good principles can survive. On page 12 Shamie says "Waste not, want not" (line 29). The truth is that the war makes you to waste as much as you can because it will take the things away you don't waste. If you want to have something for the future, a house, a car, the war will take it all, sometimes even your life. Shamie still belives in goodness after all. That's why he breaks down and ends up in Gransha (page 126 line 22).


Finbar is described as a teacher and a fanatical IRA member. He's dreaming of

becoming a hero of the civil war for freedom and in the war against alcohol (see page 16, l. 18: He wears a Pioneer Total Abstinence Pin). He is a small man with short legs and rabbit-teeth (page 16, ll.19).

From my point of view Finbar can be seen as a preacher, a preacher of war. He likes to convince people of his ideals and his ideals are violence, hatred and the principles of the Old Testament. (His father was injured in a car accident and he knee-capped the boy who drove the car with an abattoir captive bolt, cf. page 128-129). A good example of this is given ob page 55. The preacher Skeffington tells stories about the vices and the decays of rotten people who are mostly alcoholics. He does it to confess his attitude towards alcohol and, in a decent way, the hopeless fight for a free Ireland. But on the other hand he tries to confess his auditory about the easy fight with another story about his time as a teacher (see page 55, ll. 29 f.): "It's all the boys at the runt-end of the class who are going to end up in the Army. The idiots, the psychopaths - the one class of people who shouldn't be given a gun." With the last part of his speech he even doubts the ability and faculty of the soldiers. But to talk about soldiers and their abilities towards guns isn't very smashing so he changes to the alcoholic problem, real preacherlike.

The second symbol of his attitude of superiority is his behaviour towards his father (see page 56, ll. 12 f.). He is always there to give a helping hand and he is open to support poor people (see page 54, ll. 25 - 37).

It seems that Skeffington only accepts one part of his confession : he truly belives in charity, but he also believes in the movement (the IRA), and for that he accepts violence and murders.


Crilly works in the abattoir in which Shamie, Cal's father, works too, and he does his job well. He belongs to the Catholic people in Northern Ireland.

Cal and Crilly were in the same class at school. Even then Crilly was a big lad for his age with "ears like taxi-doors". If he wanted to he could be very nasty and wicked. So everybody was careful and wanted to be on the right side of him. Crilly is very violent and has no compunctions about doing something bad to others (e.g. breaking someone's leg or killing someone).

Even the authorities notice Crilly's engagement to get things done. So Crilly is a perfect member of the IRA. Others convince him of doing the right thing when he helps keeping "the Brits" out of Ireland. He is not afraid of killing someone. In his opinion "it has to be done by someone" and "orders is orders". E.g. he killed a police-man but he didn't even know the man. Crilly only got the order to kill him and so he carried out that order. Someone gives him orders, in this case it is Skeffington, and Crilly carries them out. Crilly obeys the orders and doesn't really think about what he does.


Cyril Dunlop, one of the minor characters of the book, is of the same age as Cal's father and works as a foreman on the Mortons' farm. Cyril and Shamie know each other from about the town but because of their different religions they meet very occasionally.

Dunlop is an active Orangeman who would rather die than live in a state ruled from Rome by priests and nuns because in his opinion that would be a yoke of Roman Catholicism.

The day Cal starts his work on the Mortons' farm Dunlop has got to show him around but he lets him know that he is the boss. Each week Dunlop gives Cal a lift to town and back but one day Cal tells him that he would not need any transport. Dunlop seems disgruntled that Cal is no longer dependent on him.

All together Dunlop seems to be very bossy and proud to be a Protestant but according to his statement:" I've nothing against Catholic people. It's the religion itself I don't like," he doesn't condemn people who are Catholic. That shows that he is loyal in some way.

Enviado por:Paula Zamora
Idioma: inglés
País: Chile

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