John McGahern has also written strongly about the generation that grew up in oppressed rural Ireland in his second novel The Dark published in 1965, focuses on the development of an adolescent as he walks through the rural Ireland education system. The main character, young Mahoney, while maintaining his academic proficiency, is experiencing a tense relationship with his father, the old Mahoney – who beats him and his other children – as well as hesitation about what to do with his life after high school.
Young Mahoney’s attitude towards his father develops over a long period covered by the novel from fear and hatred toward greater acceptance. This essay analyses how the novel interacts on a formal, thematic and paratextual level and examines the banning of the novel. I will investigate the following issues: Firstly, the essay will analyse the form of the narration, its structure style, to identify who is the narrator. It will also look at the use of the language.
Then it will analyse the key themes of the novel, the family, and the Irish rural society. Finally, it will examine how the novel interacts on a paratextual level in terms of the Catholica authority and the political debate.Who is the narration?In the novel, there are distinctive features in the plot such as the different perspectives in the narration which lacks continuity in the use of the narrator pronoun. It shifts from chapter to another, and in the last chapter, there is no existence of the narration. The pronoun is changeable in narration, however, the novel is recounted by the same narrator that is, the main character young Mahoney (van der Ziel, 2005). Young Mahoney’s character does not seem clear, whether a fictional character in the third person he’ form or a character recounts its own story in the first person I’ form or his story is a confession of sins in the second person you’ form. The protagonist is conveying his story from different perspectives, different pronouns, referring to himself (Devine, 1979). This distinctive technique exists in Tomas O Criomhthain’s text An tOilednach in where the pronoun changes suddenly from the first to the third to describe himself from a distance, ‘a bird-perspective” (O’Crohan, 2000) this scene was properly more cinematic. In this specific case of McGahern’s The Dark is more likely to Samuel Beckett in his trilogy Molloy, Malone Dies and The Unnameable, both writers aiming of recounted in different perspectives is rather metaphysical than visual (van der Ziel,2005). Reading the different narration pronoun deeply, the novel contains violence and trauma scenes from the abusive father towards his children and it is depicted from the very beginning in the opening scene. Senior Mahoney, shouted at his son because he said “Fuck”. He breaks down the word into single characters, which do not prevent it from pointing. As Anne Goarzin, puts it succinctly, spelling the word, and putting spaces between characters, Mahoney doubles its effect. In a similar way, the blanks are between the strikes, where the narrator’s voice is heard, amplifying the violence scene. (31). He’d never imagined horror such as this, waiting naked for the leather to come down on his flesh, would it ever come, it was impossible and yet nothing could be much worse than this waiting’ (McGahern, 9). Instead of the pain of the leather, the expectation of it was horrible and worse than death to think’ (McGahern, 9). At an early age, the child has experienced the more real death-in-life of the destruction of self-esteem, and this death defines the quality of his efforts to recover personal integrity through the choices he makes from this time on’ (Sampson, 66). This scene is devoid of narrative commentary, which deepens the sense of young Mahoney’s inner terror described in this scene. As a result of traumatic and brutality of the scene, young Mahoney reported the events in the third person where he is totally absent (Unfraidh). According to Crouth, The power of trauma is due to the fact that the victim fails to absorb the event and therefore does not exist at the moment it occurs (1995). The third person’s narrative in the opening scene serves to represent the impossibility of representing the trauma in the first person. In fact, with the proliferation of violence, young Mahoney cannot include the reality of its brutality. He didn’t know anything or what he was doing or where the room was’ (McGahern 1965: 9). Young Mahoney had never imagined horror such as this’ (McGahern 1965: 9). This initial trauma leads to the disintegration of the self, represented by the subsequent shift in narratives. The central image in this opening scene is of articulate consciousness overwhelmed by visceral experience’ (Sampson, 1993: 65). Since then, young Mahoney has been trying to tell himself, shifting the perspective in an attempt to explore his deconstructed identity and reach a place where he can stop speaking’