본문 바로가기
  • Home

Irish Famine and Collective Memory: A Study on Tom Murphy’s Famine

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2008, 21(2), pp.101-135
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Yumi Hong 1

1명지대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Tom Murphy, one of the most important contemporary Irish playwrights, has written mainly for the Irish audience. In his remarkable play, Famine, Murphy attempts to unite the national past with his contemporary Ireland by representing the Irish Famine in 1840s—one of the most important and disastrous Irish experiences—and finally captures the heart of the contemporary Irish psyche. Murphy's attempt to represent the Irish Famine cannot be free from postcolonial voice and self-fashioning. It directly relates to the questions of "Who am I?”, "How did I come to be who I am?", and “To whom am I connected?” This paper aims to explore the very aspect of this relationship of the past and the present self-identity in Murphy's Famine and to examine the significance of that attempt. The Introduction explores the significance of the Irish Famine both in modern Ireland and in Murphy's life and his plays, and the postcolonial perspective toward the national history and collective memory. Part II discusses the representation of Ireland as a colonized body which suffers from starvation and fear during the period. Part III examines measures to address poverty and suffering of the nation by focusing on the "Relief Committee scene" which exposes the British government's indifference to the plight of the Irish people and their slow reaction, the selfishness of the landowners, and the limitations of the proposed measures such as emigration, food supply, and charity organizations. Part IV focuses on John Connor—the moral center and the leader figure of his community—his pacificism, his choices to stay in Ireland and endure the starvation, his defiance and his tragic experience which ends with him falling as victim and villain simultaneously. He stands as a tragic figure with his loss of everything including even his sanity as well as loss of his family and his being reduced to a murderer. Murphy intentionally ends his play prior to Black '47, the worst famine, and leaves his ending open and interrogative, leading the audience to feel the devastating experience of their ancestors and see its historical significance in their lives as an intrinsic part of their identity and psyche. Conclusion includes observations of the relationship of John Connor and Murphy and the connection of their experiences in Ireland, and places the significance of the Irish Famine and its traumatic impact on the Irish experience and national identity as a part of a collective memory.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.