Flann O'Brien, Dickens and Joyce: Form, Identity and Colonial Influences

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Flann O'Brien, Dickens and Joyce: Form, Identity and Colonial Influences

All quotations from The Third Policeman are taken from the 1993 Flamingo Modern Classic edition.

In this essay I intend to examine Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman in the context of the time of its writing, 1940, its relation to certain English novelistic traditions and also the broader Irish literary tradition in which it belongs.

Seamus Deane refers to Ireland as a "Strange Country" and indeed O'Brien's own narrator recalls the words of his father:

" . . . he would mention Parnell with the customers and say that Ireland was a queer country." (7)

Such a concurrence indicates to a degree the peculiar nature of the Irish situation with regard to theoretical post-colonial models.

There is a temptation to see all Irish work since the revival in terms of decolonization. Cahalan, in The Irish Novel, traces the tendency of Irish writers such as Swift, Edgeworth and Maturin to employ fantastic elements and non-realism in direct opposition to English colonial models and in affirmation of certain Irish traditions. Mercier, in The Irish Comic Tradition, points also to the presence of exaggeration, absurdity and scatological detail in Gaelic heroic cycles and poetry.

In Flann O'Brien, Bakhtin, and Menippean Satire, M. Keith Booker begins by saying;

"It has now become commonplace to think of Flann O'Brien along with James Joyce and Samuel Beckett as the three great Irish fiction writers...
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