In ‘The Butcher Boy’ Patrick McCabe transforms, according to John O’Mahony, “the microcosm of the small town, a neglected and disparaged corner of Irish experience into an arena for burlesque humour and biting satire.” “McCabe is a true original,” says critic and novelist John Banville. “Like Roddy Doyle writing about life in working-class Dublin suburbs, McCabe has used the stuff the rest of us didn’t bother with and made a peculiar kind of rough poetry out of it. He catches that particular kind of bizarre, insane world of Irish country life in the 50’s and 60’s. People like O’Faolain and Frank O’Connor wrote about it in lyrical mode, McGahern wrote about it in tragic mode, but McCabe writes about it in a kind of anti- black comedy that is absolutely unique.” Such aspects of McCabe’s unique style are vividly captured within the given extract from the novel, where McCabe’s unique hybrid bog-gothic style is clearly evident.
The theme of Francie Brady’s alienation and separation from society is a dominant concept that develops and intensifies throughout the novel. Alienation refers to the sense of being separated and isolated from others, of not belonging, and in the specified extract McCabe successfully develops the reader’s understanding of Francie as an outsider in a society neither accepts nor understands him due to his inherent since of difference. McCabe presents the alienation of the protagonist Francie Brady as socially, physically and emotionally alone and insecure, using the situation of Francie finding that his best friend Joe was away at boarding school, followed by the encounter with Mrs Connolly to enhance the reader’s response to Francie as an alienated and unwanted outsider. This extract I an excerpt from the latter section of the novel where McCabe exploits the situation of Francie’s seeming abandonment by Joe, as well as his angry confrontation of Mrs Connolly. In this section of the novel McCabe presents and explores Francie’s alienation from the rest of society; and the anger he feels because of this isolation.
In this extract the theme of alienation is presented in a key moment filled with pathos, eliciting an emotional and empathetic response from the reader. The characterisation is dedicated to the abandonment of Francie by those who he cared about most; his parents, Alo and Joe. This works to emphasise Francie’s sense of alienation and of not belonging.
Throughout the passage, McCabe develops the reader’s understanding of Francie’s alienation and separation from society by creating a complex and dominant narrative voice from Francie as narrator-protagonist. The use of first-person narration in lines like “the only one I knew” and “then I knocked on the door” force the reader to respond directly to Francie’s somewhat limited point of view, moulding the reader’s identification with Francie as an outsider with a unique perspective on events; in this case, the perspective of an abandoned, alienated young boy who only wants to be liked and accepted by the people around him.
McCabe structures Francie’s retrospective narration with a highly personalised, authentic voice appropriation. The reader is led directly into Francie’s world, psyche and perspective through McCabe’s successful creation of a unique character voice. McCabe’s structuring of Francie’s narration with the use of colloquial, idiomatic expressions such as “who’s standing there only some lad” effectively captures Francie’s unique individual voice, adding authorial realism to not only Francie’s Irish midlands vernacular, but creating a protagonist whose narration of Joe’s absence and the encounter with Mrs Connolly directly influences the reader’s understanding and response to Francie’s alienation and separation from society....