“Cal” by Bernard MacLaverty
Key Quotes (in reverse)
Central Concerns: the effect of sectarianism on the individual AND guilt (these are also connected)
“The next morning, Christmas Eve, almost as if he expected it, the police arrived to arrest him and he stood in a dead-man’s Y-fronts listening to the charge, grateful that at last someone was going to beat him to within an inch of his life” CONTEXT
This is the last paragraph of the novel. Crilly and Skeffington will have informed the police of Cal’s involvement in Robert Morton’s murder (in revenge for informing on them for the bomb in the library). THEME 1 – he has been drawn into violence and is now in trouble. THEME 2 – he is “grateful” – which seems ironic - but we know that CAL had difficulty dealing with his guilt. CHARACTER – this is a final pathetic image of CAL. He is wearing the underwear of his victim. You can see how this would appear to Marcella and the police. We, the readers, understand that he does feel remorse for his involvement – but it look as if he has capitalized on the murder by moving in on a vulnerable widow.
“And they made love in an absolute and intense silence”
CONTEXT – Just before his arrest the following morning.
THEME2 – This shows that Cal and Marcella can be together – but only when things are left unsaid. If he confesses, or the truth is known, their relationship is over. CHARACTER – throughout, Cal struggles to articulate his thoughts and feelings. Because of MacLaverty’s narrative stance (third person, but from Cal’s point of view), the reader knows what is in Cal’s mind – even though no other character in the novel has that privilege.
“He wanted to share his guilt with the person he had wronged. To commune with her and be forgiven” p143 CONTEXT – we are told this just after Cal has realised that Marcella’s marriage to Robert Morton was not completely happy. THEME 2 – This is the closest he comes to confessing – the reader suspects he may then he says: “I would like – another drink”. The potential climax of a confession is an anticlimax of silence. CHARACTER – Cal is inarticulate therefore cannot be forgiven.
“Sometimes in her presence he felt like Quasimodo – as if the ugliness he had done showed in his face. The brand in the middle of his forehead would never disappear and seemed to throb when she was near.” CONTEXT
This is just before he goes into her room and violates her personal possessions. THEME 2 – “brand” His guilt is permanent – it marks him out. He feels as if his guilt is visible to others. Compares himself with Quasimodo – deformed and outcast. CHARACTER – It seems ironic that the nearer he is to Marcella – the more he is aware of his guilt. The more it is tangible – “throbs”. And still he is drawn to her. This shows the root of his confusion between guilt and love.
These were the quotes on Chapter 5.
Chapter 5 is the resolution of the plot. It includes the anti-climax – when he does not confess. We are denied the opportunity of seeing how Marcella would react. Instead of a confession and its aftermath, we return to the theme of sectarianism and its effects. By the end of the novel, Cal foils a bomb plot that Crilly has planned – and has been finally arrested. Cal never took control of his own life – but was relieved when the truth was known – as he would be able to pay for his wrongdoing – so to deal with is guilt.
The chapter ends with a romantic moment ruined. Marcella and Cal are friendly - “the air is ripped apart by an explosion” “It was half a cow- udders, hindquarters with muscles red-raw and still jigging” Cal then vomits.
This quote links in with the imagery of the abattoir. Death and violence in NI were random, sudden and sickening. For Cal, we know that the death of animals reminds him of Robert Morton’s “animal roar” when he died. The cow in this quote was destroyed suddenly and without warning. Theme 1- random acts of violence
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