Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara) in John Ford’s film The Quiet Man from 1952 is ‘the projection of an emigrant fantasy of return’ (Barton, 2004). Discuss critically.
Mary Kate Danaher is a representation of the emigrant fantasy of return. From her first appearance in the picturesque fields of Innisfree to her eventual marriage to Sean Thornton Mary Kate fulfils the stereotypical Irish maiden role portrayed so many times in Irish Cinema. When first viewed by Thornton she is portrayed as a typical Pastoral Maiden from the a Rococo painting, dressed in royal blue and red and tending to her sheep: “a red- haired shepherdess in a verdant glade” (Screening Ireland). From the off Mary Kate is portrayed as strikingly beautiful, hardworking and pure. Such is the surreal nature of the encounter Sean exclaims “Is she real? She couldn’t be!” This romanticised pastoral art like vision reinforces the ideal of a woman which perhaps is Thornton and many Irish diaspora’s view on how a native Irish woman should be. She fits the stereotypical Irish woman mould. She appears independent, passionate and fearless, and at first resists the attempts of Sean to win her heart. However, at the end of the film Mary Kate appears all too happy to settle for patriarchal dominance and a subservient existence. The pinnacle of her ambition is “to have her own house and a place for her mother’s China.” Mary Kate’s red hair and fiery temperament add to the often “symbolic annihilation” (McCloone 1984) of women as seen previously in Irish film and television, and in turn Hollywood.
This emigrant fantasy is further reflected in the representation of Ireland as a country of peace and harmony. In the context of the Irish civil war this in reality not the case. McCloone (2008) states that it “carries on a dialogue between illusion and reality and a discourse between illusion and illusion and has little in common with the Ireland of the 1920s in which it is ostensibly set.” We are introduced...
Bibliography: * Pettitt, Lance: Screening Ireland. Film and television representation (Manchester UP, 2000), Part I
* Barton, Ruth: Irish National Cinema (Routledge, 2004), Part II, Chapters 7 and 10;
* McLoone, Martin: Film, Media and Popular Culture. Cityscapes, Landscapes, Soundscapes (Irish Academic Press, 2008)
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