Cal is a 1983 novel written by Bernard MacLaverty. In the book, the author exemplifies the tragedies that marked Ireland’s political history. Although it is fictional, the story follows the developments that transpired in the life of a young man, Cal, who is faced by internal struggles because of making wrong decisions in his life. Through Cal’s representation, MacLaverty explores political contexts of Ireland at the time. Cal’s character espouses the political context of Northern Ireland in significant ways. The character’s decisions and engagements are essential in understanding the country’s socio-political context as a whole. Through the developments that unfold in Cal’s personal life, MacLaverty develops corresponding facets between the character’s struggles and the political climate of Northern Ireland.
Cal’s Character Presentation in the Novel
Cal’s character is an essential part of understanding the novel. The character loves to be in isolation as compared to his father and friends. From the beginning of the story, Cal is constantly in his room looking through the Venetian blinds on his window, smoking, and playing his guitar (MacLaverty 9). Furthermore, his presentation of an introvert and a quarantined character is evident from the type of music that he listened to. According to MacLaverty, in his privacy, Cal would always listen to his Rolling Stone LP (10). Such aspects of characterization are essential in establishing that Cal lived an isolated life.
In the novel, Cal’s is also presented as a weak and indolent person compared to his father and friend, Crilly. MacLaverty depicts Cal’s weaknesses through his father’s work. Although the character worked alongside his father at an abattoir, he later on quit. Unlike his father, Cal could not stand the sight of animals being slaughtered as he notes that he found it nauseating (MacLaverty 8). Furthermore, after he quit the job, he was replaced by his friend Crilly. Therefore, the character representation of the three personalities is an essential part of the story because it reveals’ Cal’s indolence.
Cal is easily manipulated as compared to his father who is unwavering. On several occasions, Cal is persuaded by his friends to partake in actions that he does not wish to engage. One of the instances where Cal’s character can be compared to that of his father was when he found a threatening note on their doorway (MacLaverty 26). Cal proceeded by showing his father the note although the old man was not perturbed by it. However, unlike his father, Cal shows a wavering character when he is agitated by the Brits in his country and decides to join in their burglaries as their getaway driver (MacLaverty 23). Carl’s friends, Crilly and Skeffington were members of the Irish Republican Army and were followers to certain political logic, which they subject to Cal’s character. Therefore, unlike his father, Cal’s character is prone to manipulation.
Cal’s is also depicted as a remorseful in the novel, unlike his friends who do not show any regret for their actions. For instance, after they had participated in the heinous act of killing the protestant reserve policeman, Cal was regretful and was hoping that something terrible would happen to him to atone to his foul actions (MacLaverty 30). In most cases, Cal always expected to be fire-bombed out of his home every morning, but he found everything okay. However, unlike him, his IRA friends did not show any remorse for their actions, and were proud of the murder, which they saw as a major accomplishment (MacLaverty 28). Therefore, the painting of Cal as remorseful is an essential characterization in the novel.
Cal’s Presentation in Relation to Ireland Politics of Northern Ireland
In the novel, Cal’s character representation is significant in understanding the political context of Northern Ireland. The character lived an isolated life and was constantly in his room. Such an illustration is important as it relates to the relationship of the protestant and Catholics in the country. Cal and his father were the only Catholics who lived within the estate dominated by Protestants (MacLaverty 8). Consequently, they were in constant fear and anxiety believing that the Protestant-dominated neighborhood had ill motives towards them. For instance, when Cal found the threat note, he knew that it was because they were Catholics. Moreover, the aspect of Cal’s isolation demonstrates the historical developments that took place in the area before the Catholics moved away from the estate. Therefore, isolation behavior is essential in assessing the relationship between the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
The illustration of the character as being susceptible to manipulations is essential in depicting the anxiety and the political ideologies of Northern Ireland. Cal was unwilling to take part in criminal activities alongside Crilly and Skeffington because he believed that such acts were not necessary. However, the two characters, in the story, represent the radical revolutionaries in the country’s political context due to what they consider as justice. One of the instances, where they manipulated Cal’s thinking, was when they were convincing him to be their getaway driver (MacLaverty 59). Such ideologies exemplify the radical perceptions that the minority in the area held towards the majority group. Therefore, the presentation of Cal as a person who is easily swayed was representative of the revolutionaries who had embraced radical beliefs on how to deal with the Brits that were encroaching in their territories.
Cal’s character of showing remorse for the wrongs that he had taken part in represented the isolated characteristics of some Brits who had occupied North Ireland. Cal and his father felt as if they were being targeted for being Catholics in the area dominated by the Protestants. On several occasions, their family, the McCluskey’s faced confrontations from their neighbors for being Catholics (MacLaverty 28). Nonetheless, the whole neighborhood did not share similar sentiments of hatred. The Radcliffs and the Hendersons were Protestants but would always stand by the McCluskeys when they faced some trouble for being different in the neighborhood (16). Such exemptions can be noted across the country whereby the government did not discriminate anybody. In MacLaverty, Cal was waiting for his Giro, which arrived days later thus showing that the government was considerate of everyone in the country (9). Therefore, Cal’s presentation as remorseful is an indication that not all people in the country hated Catholics.
Cal’s character of indolence and reluctance shows the socio-political context of the country. Essentially, it is evident that Cal and his father belonged to a lower socio-political class, which is reflective of the country’s disparities. Together with the father, Cal would constantly search for jobs in newspapers (MacLaverty 15). More so, the father worked in an abattoir, which depicts their lower socio-economic status. The depiction of Cal’s character illustrates how the minority groups in the country belong to the lower socio-economic status compared to the rest of the people. Therefore, the character of reluctance from Cal is indicative of the fact that the country was subject to socio-economic disparities.
Individual Representation of Political Awareness
Cal’s character in the novel is significant since it espouses political awareness and understanding. Particularly, it is notable that just as Cal, the Catholic section of the population had certain perceptions towards the new developments that were taking place in the country. For instance, when Cal first noticed that the Union Jacks were being erected in more places, he was furious noting that the loyalists were intruding in his country (MacLaverty 9). Nonetheless, after he had taken part in the murder of the police, he became more aware of his actions and had a change of mind. The character is significant because it demonstrates that lack of political control tend to influence negative perceptions that can be harmful to how a country is governed.
Cal’s struggles are representative of the oppression experienced by the marginalized groups in the country. Notably, through people like Crilly and Skeffington, it was evident that some people were developing radicalized justified ideologies. For instance, Cal was easily convinced to take part in the burglary as a justified action since the Brits did not have any rights to be in the country (MacLaverty 56). Therefore, governments have the responsibility to foster a sense of inclusion for both the majority and minority groups in the country. By failing to create such cohesion, they give room to radical ideologies that tear down the social fabrics of the society.
Maclaverty’s account is significant in understanding the political contexts of Northern Ireland during the Brits occupation. The author brings out such developments through the personal struggles of Cal, the protagonist in the story. Through his presentation as indolent, remorseful, and subjective to manipulations, MacLaverty draws focus to wider contexts of developments transpiring in the settings. Nonetheless, through Cal’s relationship with his father and friends whom he interacted with, it is evident that there is a contrast, which supplements the understanding of the political contexts. Overall, MacLaverty is successful in using Cal to espouse the political dimensions of Northern Ireland.
MacLaverty, Bernard. Cal. Vol. 30. Ediciones AKAL, 2002.
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