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Essay on "Cal" by Bernard MacLaverty

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Cal Essay I consider that "Cal" by Bernard MacLaverty is a novel with something permanent to [a1]give which will find a lasting place. I believe this is true because of the effective characterisation, thought provoking themes and clearly significant setting [a2]in which it takes place. The novel "Cal" is about a nineteen year old youth, called Cal, who lives in Northern Ireland in the early seventies and is unwillingly recruited into the IRA through his friend Crilly, with whom he helps murder an RUC policeman. Later he meets the man's widow, Marcella and becomes infatuated with her despite the overwhelming guilt he feels about the murder. He starts a relationship with her, but in the end is actually grateful when he is arrested for his part in her husband's murder.[a3] One of the things which make this a memorable novel[a4] is the characterisation of Cal. The novel is told from Cal's point of view and this helps us to sympathise with Cal even though he has helped in murdering a man. ...read more.


Later when he is alone in the cottage he describes his feelings as "his sin clawed at him, demanding attention." This makes it seem as if a wild animal is scratching him painfully, giving him no peace. He also feels he can no longer go to mass as he would have to confess his sins first and feels alienated form God. "He had not been to confession for two years and never would again". He is also shown to be a kind person who loves and cares for his father and is good with Marcella's child. His relationship with Marcella also makes us feel sorry for him as it is obvious that it will not last as he himself realises "he was in love with the one woman he should be a million miles away from." Not only had he helped murder her husband, but she was much older than him and they had very little in common. This characterisation of the main character helps make this a novel that will last.[a8] The themes in the novel will also stand the test of time[a9]. ...read more.


The effect on Cal's father Shamie showed what the troubles did to ordinary decent people. From being someone who was strong and defiant: "I hate to let the bastards get the better of me" to a pathetic, broken old man ; "the man had aged twenty years in a couple of weeks" and "sobbed quietly". It also shows quite clearly that Cal had little choice in those circumstances to get involved when the attitude was " if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem". This was said to Cal by Crilly to show that he would not be accepted if he did not try to help free Northern Ireland from the British Protestant rule. Therefore, in conclusion, "Cal" is a novel which will last because of the skilful characterisation of Cal and the themes on the effect of guilt and also because of the insight it gives into what life was like for ordinary people living in that society at that time. [a1]Refers to question [a2]Features being dealt with [a3]Plot summary less than 100 words(85 words) [a4]Notice how the opening sentence refers back to the question [a5]Point>evidence>analysis [a6]Linking word also [a7]Notice linking phrase [a8]Again sums up referring back to the question [a9]Refers back to question ...read more.

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    Mac Laverty gives the readers an insight by reflecting Cal's thoughts of regret and guilt. Mac Laverty writes, 'the only prayer he (Cal) could say with any sincerity was for his mother...the rest of his prayers consisted of telling himself how vile he was'.

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