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"Cal" by Bernard Maclaverty Critical essay

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"Cal" by Bernard MacLaverty Critical essay Task: Choose a novel I which the central character is involved in conflict. Briefly outline the nature of the conflict and then in more detail explain how it helped illustrate the theme(s) of the novel. In your answer you should deal with at least two of the following: setting, characterisation, dialogue, key incident, theme, or any other appropriate feature. Bernard MacLaverty's brilliant novel "Cal" tells the story of a young man's involvement with the IRA and his struggle to cope with the repercussions of his actions. The novel makes the reader contemplate the violence and aggression that infests areas of our society and how religious hatred and bigotry can have devastating effects on people's lives. The protagonist, Cal McLuskey, is involved in many conflicts throughout the text; all of which help to illustrate the key theme of isolation. Our appreciation of this concern is further enhanced by the author's use of setting and characterisation. Set amidst the conflict of 1980's Northern Ireland, "Cal" tells the tale of a nineteen-year-old Catholic, Cal McCluskey. Life is not easy for Cal: he and his father, Shamie, are the only Catholics living a Protestant Estate; he is unemployed; his mother died ...read more.


Now he's got money to burn and you're running about borrowing fags. Not to mention the embarrassment it caused me." Shamie wants Cal to follow in his footsteps as he is his only son left, Cal's older brother was killed while working abroad. Since Cal's mother died when he was eight, Shamie and Cal only have each other and the conflict between them is increasing because if they do not have each other they do not have anyone. They are both isolated in their house because there is not a very good relationship between them. They are not close and barely engage in conversation with each other. They are both socially isolated in their own home. There relationship highlights isolation due to the conflict between them. It is not only the relationship between Cal and his father that highlights the theme of isolation but also Cal's relationship with his 'friends', Crilly and Skeffington. They are heavily mixed up with the IRA and in a sense bully Cal into getting involved also. Crilly and Skeffington are very high believers of the 'cause' and when Cal rejects their beliefs there is conflict between them all. ...read more.


This makes him isolated because he has to bottle up everything he feels. In the end of the novel I think Cal feels extremely relieved he is going to get what he feels he deserves: "The next morning...almost as if he had expected it, the police arrived to arrest him as he stood in a dead man's y-fronts listening to the charge, grateful that at last someone was going to beat him within an inch of his life." This is almost contradictory. He wants to get punishment for what he has done so that he can be free of his sin. Cal feels relieved that he has been found out and has not gotten away with what he has done. He is grateful that finally he is going to get what he deserves and is going to be punished. This highlights isolation as he was alone and needed to tell someone what he has done but he could not. The guilt was torturing him inside but he could not do anything about it. So in conclusion, Bernard MacLaverty's novel "Cal" effectively shows the degree to which isolation can affect us. We see this through the examples of religious bigotry and also how relationships with friends and family can affect lives. ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay is very well written, displaying skillful control of complex sentence construction, suitable lexis and using quotations and references that illustrate the points being made relating to the themes of violence and aggression arising out of religious hatred and bigotry.

However, the conclusion does not link the essay question to the themes, the features chosen, nor show how the "nature of the conflict" helps "illustrate the themes".


Marked by teacher Jeff Taylor 26/04/2013

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