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Cal by Bernard Mac Laverty - Critical Evaluation

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"Cal" is a romantic-tragedy novel written by the Irish author, Bernard Mac Laverty. It is a fiction story about a young man living in Northern Ireland during the troubles of the 1970s. The writer conveys a number of significant themes through skilful writing and the novel's plot, such as guilt, hypocrisy and bigotry. In this essay, I will be focusing on the themes of the story, the purpose of why the novel was written and the author's use of imagery to enhance his writing. The events of this story take place in Northern Ireland in the 1970's. During the period of time in which this story is set in, Northern Ireland was going through what we would now refer to as being "The Troubles". This was a period of conflict involving republican and loyalist paramilitary organisations and included conflicts and violence. "Cal" is about a young adult named Cal who is living in Northeren Ireland at this time. He is a Catholic living in a Protestant area with his father, Shamie. This leads to him being the victom of many bigotry driven attacks, such as his house being burnt down and to him being insulted on his own street. He starts to fall in love with a woman named Marcella, which, from the very beginning, is a doomed relationship. ...read more.


It also creates the question of 'who was too blame for The Troubles' which relates to the theme and purpose of the novel, which I will be discussing later in this essay. All of the characters are affected by the troubles as well, as most of their problems are due to that situation. For example, if it was not for the troubles, then Cal would not have been involved with the IRA and Robert wouldn't have been murdered, taking problems out of all of the characters lives. All of the characters' features reflect the themes, such as Cal's characteristic of being vunerable, leading to his self loathing and guilt. There are many themes in the novel 'Cal'. One of these themes that I will be focusing on is the theme of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy means the pretence of possessing virtues, beliefs or qualities that one does not really have, especially in matters of religion or morality. One way in which the author displays this theme is via specific characters, such as Crilly. Crilly is part of a gang who are fighting for independence from Great Britain. For example, when Skeffington is talking about Crilly: "There are not many aspects of our culture which interests Mr Crilly. But he's a useful man." This quote shows that Crilly does not care about Irish independence and culture but is only in the gang as he likes the thrill of violence. ...read more.


All of these themes show the writer's purpose in writing. He shows bad and good sides to both Protestant and Catholic organisations, leading to us to wonder which is the good side in the novel. The story also shows us how difficult and violent Northern Ireland was at that time in history, and how deeply everybody was affected. To an extent, the way the author writes also shows aspects of him being a bit ashamed of his country, due to the negative details and feelings he writes about. Mac Laverty uses a range of techniques to create the mood and atmosphere in the novel. One of these techniques, is his use of imagery. The story starts with this mood with the author describing the scenes taking place in an abattoir: "It was immediately winched up by one of the hind shanks and its throat cut" The author uses a lot of violence and blood imagery at the start of the novel to set the tone of the book. Other evidence which shows this use of evidence is that there are a lot of deaths and murders mentioned in the novel. An example of this is when Cal and his father are watching the news and the author describes the events that had happened, which were mainly murders and violence, in a way which seemed to be normal. Death permeates the novel as does religion. ...read more.

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