Joyce Caryís novels Herself Surprised and To be a Pilgrim depict the role of the individual within society by focusing on charactersí experiences. Each of the two novels is written in the first person depicting how the characters see themselves in relation to the world. Though the plots are independent of each other, the novels share a number of characters, incidents, styles and themes. Herself Surprised is told by the unflappable Sara Monday, whose chronicle elevates her from a servant to the wife of a rich gentleman, before she slides once more into the servant class. The proud, mournful, and oftentimes fussy voice narrating the second novel, To be a Pilgrim, is provided by Tom Wilcher, an elderly lawyer who has failed through a tangled combination of timidity, misgiving, and selfishness, to act upon his heartís dearest ambition. He has always longed to be a pilgrim and to give his life wholly to the service of God. Both characters learn from their experiences, realizing that they have changed who they once were and who they will become.
Just as the religious faith of Joyce Caryís characters influenced others, Eamon de Valeraís religious faith influenced his ideas about the role of the Catholic Church in the Irish Free State. De Valera considered many other careers before picking a political path. He contemplated the priesthood and also teaching, but found his love in politics. De Valera strove for Irish independence with great determination and intelligence; these characteristics aided in his rise to fame. Many of his followers watched as his career progressed. He served in many roles, as a general in the Easter Uprising of 1916, as a member and leader in Irish independence groups, as Prime Minister of Ireland and lastly, in 1959, as the nationís president. After a half-century in power, the longest reign of any twentieth-century leader, de Valeraís determination and intelligence continued to make him a leader beyond compare in Irish society. For many he would always be the man who was Ireland.
Major Works Consulted:
Cary, Joyce. Herself Surprised. New York: Review, 1999.
United States. National Endowment for the Humanities. European Writers; Joyce
Cary. 8 April 2004. 23 Mar. 2006 .
---.To be a Pilgrim. New York: Review, 1999.
Coogan, Pat, Tim. Eamon de Valera, The man who was Ireland. Great Britain: Random, 1993.
Younger, Calton.A State of Disunion. New York: Random, 1999.