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Caitlin  DíAmico

Frank OíConnorís Realities of Life in Ireland
The Book of Kells: The Creation of a Masterpiece

Throughout his short stories, Frank OíConnor examines the realities of Irish life through a critical lens, as he depicts the cycle of poverty and degradation that the Irish must endure due to their own shortcomings and those of Irish culture. Fueled by broken relationships, the failings of the Catholic Church, and the inability of his characters to break free of the bonds of their destitution, disillusionment with life ensues. OíConnorís negative viewpoint of Irish society stems from his tumultuous childhood at the hands of an alcoholic father. His determination to initiate reform in the nation came to a height through his involvement as a revolutionary in the Irish Civil War, and he often reflects the themes of a hope for a better Ireland through his characters. OíConnorís admiration for realist writers caused him to adopt a critical eye in his depiction of Ireland, as he portrays the complacency of the people and their unfulfilled dreams of happiness.

OíConnorís role as a translator of Irish poetry can be compared to the monastic authors of the Book of Kells. These monks drew from a variety of sources, including Christian symbolism, techniques and materials from the Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as those of their pre-Christian culture, to create the Gospel manuscript during a time of religious and political turmoil. The colorful pages of the Book of Kellsntradict the ascetic lives of their monastic creators, whose simple existence was threatened by Viking raids during the late eighth and ninth centuries. At the same time, their religion came under attack, as differences began to emerge between the Celtic and Roman churches. The monksí struggle against the Vikings and the constantly changing catholic church contribute to the value of the Book of Kells as a creation that embodies Christian symbolism, artistic creativity from various cultures, and the strong religious spirit of its creators.

Major Works Consulted:
Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Irelandís Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. New York: Anchor, 1995.
Meehan, Bernard. The Book of Kells. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.
OíConnor, Frank. Collected Stories. New York: Vintage, 1981.
---. An Only Child. New York: Knopf, 1961.
Photo Credit:Matthews, James. Voices: A Life of Frank OíConnor. New York: Atheneum, 1983.


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