The Struggle and Strength of the Irish…Overseen? Essay

When Gerald Cambrensis continually insults the Irish in his article The History and Topography of Ireland, he calls them lazy, poorly civilized people with no real claim to fame. Cambrensis insults the Irish society through their dress, agricultural commerce, and fight tactics. The mention of the Irsih living as beasts is his main analogy to animalistic behavior of the people. However, Gerald makes sure to coyly compliment their musical abilities but is quick to realize that other countries are far more musically talented and that Ireland shall not be noted for such an accomplishment.

Gerlad’s piece was well known and has led many to believe the Irish as more than inferior to others, influencing societal views of the Irishmen from other countries. Flaherty’s flim Man of Aran portrayed the Irish family as a hard working unit in which the family’s struggle to live in harsh conditions was overcome with a sense of family. The Man of Aran shows a family on the islands working hard to survive; many scenes include the grueling physical in which families needed to endure. Flaherty believed that documentary narrative should ‘come out of the life of a people, not from actions of individuals’” (Bourne 2). Many seem to think that the portrayal of the Aran Islands was much too melodramatic. Cambrensis’ argument that native Irish can be “barbaric and uncivilized” is proven to be true, one would wonder why the family in the documentary would not relocate if life was so hard(Bourne 2). The family also didn’t prove to have the greatest technology or affluent life on the islands proving that the civilization was not present.

Martin McDonnaugh’s play Cripple of Innishmaan portrays the sense of love in many broken familial situations; however, still portrays the sense of an Irish community working together to survive. Martin adds another layer to Irish life showing the importance of self in the play. The Cripple of Inishmaan proves Cambrensis’ argument invalid. While Cripple Billy tries to set out to America to be a movie star he had ambition and a dream. When Billy gets on the boat to America his devotion shines. Though Billy is proven to be mentally challenged his habits are all those but barbaric.

McDonaugh proves Billy to be civilized and committed. Cambrensis claims that the Irish have not much to think of for themselves. Johnnypateenmike, the “newsman” (moreover a gossip) of the island-where hardly anything ever happens- it is he in the end that is reported by Billy?s foster aunt Kate to have saved baby Billy as his parents wanted to drown him because they could not bear a crippled child. Having played a major comic role with his scrounger behavior throughout the drama, Johnnypateenmike eventually turns out to be a man with moral values, a sharp contrast to his actions during the beginning of the play.

While Cambrensis’ argument persuades readers that the typical Irishman is that of a drunken, and stupid uncivilized citizen the works of Flaherty and McDonaugh prove to show different. Through the vision of a hardworking man with a dream is Cambrensis’ theory of the Irish being lazy and uncivilized really a valid point? Cripple Billy proves to move past Ireland to make his dreams come true, and Mammy overcomes the fact that she is going to have to go on a boat to make this dream come true. The atomic family Flaherty pictures proves to be using technology to make life on the Aran Islands livable and comfortable. One may say these characters are foolish for living their lives in such ways however; they prove themselves to be stable and happy individuals.

Works Cited

Bourne, Mark. “The DVD Journal Reviews: Man of Aran” The DVD Journal DVD News, Reviews, Rumors, and Commentary. Web. 21 Nov 2011. Cambrensis, Giraldus. Translation by John J. O’Meara. Topographia Hiberniae (The History and Topography of Ireland) (c. 1187). Penguin Books, 1982: (238-240). Print. McDonagh, Martin. The Cripple of Inishmaan. First Edition. New York: Vintage International, 1998.