The Best Are Leaving: Emigration and Post-War Irish Culture by Clair Wills

By Clair Wills

Clair Wills's the simplest Are Leaving is a vital and wide-ranging examine of post-war Irish emigrant tradition. Wills analyses representations of emigrants from eire and of Irish immigrants in Britain throughout a variety of discourses, together with reputable files, sociological texts, clerical literature, journalism, drama, literary fiction, and well known literature and picture. This publication, written by means of a number one critic of Irish literature and tradition, examines public opinion approximately post-war emigration from eire and concerning the immigrant group in Britain by means of discussing themes resembling the lack of the best humans from rural eire and the destruction of conventional groups; the anxieties of ladies emigrants and their hope for the advantages of smooth patron society; the stereotype of the drunken Irishman; the fascinating and actual nation Irish within the urban; and the ambiguous meanings of Irish Catholicism in England, which was once seen as either a threatening and civilising strength. Wills explores this subject matter of emigration via writers as diversified as M. J. Molloy, John B. Keane, Tom Murphy, and Edna O'Brien.

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It may be for this reason that their work has been so often sidelined in the narrative of post-war Irish literature. Their romance devices and quasi-arranged marriage plots chimed with semi-official discourses on the causes and consequences of emigration, and in particular underwrote a narrow role for women as wives and mothers, however clever and forthright they were allowed to be. Arguably, because the dramatists worked closely with local audiences on the amateur drama circuit, these plays responded more directly to popular pressures.

12 The Best Are Leaving economic argument was rarely openly acknowledged. Popular forms of art and entertainment such as the plays of John B. Keane and M. J. Molloy, popular songs, stories in Ireland’s Own and articles in women’s magazines, all attest to the continuing concern and confusion over the steady loss of the rural population, and the difficulty of thinking about it in new ways. Ideas and images of rural purity, and the fall from a rural ideal into the compromises of urban, and later industrial, life, are hardly unusual.

J. ), Selected Plays of M. J. Molloy (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1998), pp. 111–177. 2 Papers of the Commission on Emigration and Other Population Problems. Arnold Marsh Papers, Trinity College Dublin, Transcripts of Evidence, TCDMSS 8307–8/1. 23 24 Emigrants flush with money, their success appeared to prove the thesis that Ireland was losing those with the talents and potential needed to make good. Just what those qualities were was notoriously hard to define, however. Youth and health were axiomatic, but as the population crisis deepened during the 1950s, and the emigrant net was cast wider and wider, encompassing not just the children of poor farmers and labourers, but of more prosperous farmers, and even shopkeepers, local businessmen, and members of the professions, ‘the best’ could become code for subtle gradations of class and social status.

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