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Essay on Brian Keenan's 'An Evil Cradling'

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A Level English Literature and Language Specification A, for AQA. Unit 1. Essay on Brian Keenan's 'An Evil Cradling' In "An Evil Cradling," Brian Keenan uses language to convey many different mental and emotional effects, both negative and positive, caused by captivity. The most obvious negative emotional effects are fear, anger and despair, all of which are shown to varying degrees. Looking at more positive effects, the relationship that developed between Keenan and John McCarthy and the inner life that acted as a "haven" for them comes across as being of huge importance to him. One of the main negative effects that someone who had not undergone that experience might expect, is fear. This is, perhaps surprisingly, not dwelt upon as much as one might expect. In the extract there are no explicit references to feeling fear, although in the last paragraph, where Keenan describes his cell being emptied of all contents, his language does hint that this is a fairly frightening situation. He describes how he and John McMarthy sat in the "freezing silence" ... "wondering what was happening." ...read more.


Elsewhere in the book are more explicit references to fear, but fewer than one might imagine. Although Keenan uses the adjective "fearful" twice shortly after his capture, to describe his cell and his captors, he describes two memorable moments relatively on in his captivity in which he felt deep fear, both relating to a fear of being physically tortured. The first comes soon after he is kidnapped when he discovers a pair of pliers. Keenan uses the transitive verb "mesmerised" to describe how he stared while trying to stop his imagination from "running wild" at the "horror" at their use. He goes on to metaphorically compare them to an "unlucky black cat," indicating there was nothing good in his future. The second incident takes place when Keenan meets John McCarthy for the first time. Once his excitement at the company wears off at least a little, he begins exploring the cell and finds exposed wires dangling from a power point near a metal bed. ...read more.


in the same sentence, when describing his emotional state at times of great distress, such as when he discovered he had become impotent early on in his captivity, or when his captors forcibly shaved his beard later on, an event Keenan describes as being akin to rape (of identity). One of the main positive effect conveyed is the sense of camaraderie between Keenan and John McCarthy and the development of rich inner worlds, reinforced by a private language, that become a refuge. In his descriptions of this, and more, Keenan also shows how he developed and became aware of his own inner strength. Lastly, one of the biggest emotional and mental effects that comes across is a feeling of one of great defiance, which seems to be linked with Keenan's attempts to understand the terrorist mind, using his own knowledge and experiences (especially of terrorism, from being from Belfast) to try to form some level of understanding with, or to try to humanise, his captors, possibly as a way of intellectualising and therefore gaining distance from an extremely traumatic experience. ...read more.

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