Critical Review of Carn
The novel Carn, by Patrick McCabe, is a thought-provoking tale of people from a town in Ireland. The town, Carn, goes through economic failure, complete industrialization and commercial revival, back to total desolation. As the town changes, so do the main characters, Josie Keenan and Sadie Rooney. Although they do not know each other at the beginning of the novel, after the indulstrialization of the town, their lives eventually intersect. All they want from life is to lead normal lives -- outside of Carn. Even though Carn is now an industrial town, it holds bad memories and a
sense of imprisonment for Josie and Sadie. Both their lives become tied to the town of Carn. Sadie plans to move to England, but when she becomes pregnant she must stay in Carn and raise a family. A lack of options forces Josie to remain in Carn, the only home she knows. Eventually, Josie's destructive lifestyle and the political conflicts between England and Ireland result in tragedy for both characters. McCabe does an excellent job at developing the characters of Josie, Sadie, and the town of Carn itself. He shows the futility of their hopes, which ultimately results in tragedy and despair. The reader can relate to the characters, and by the conclusion of the novel, the reader will feel as if s/he knows the characters personally.
Josie Keenan lives a life without hope. The author does a good job of providing insight into Josie's life by informing the reader of everything that effects Josie from the beginning of her life, right until the end. Living with an abusive father has made Josie believe that no one is good, and everyone is only looking for what they can gain from others. The only kind words she has ever received are from her mother. Even this source of happiness is taken from her though, because her mother dies when Josie is young. She moves from an orphanage right into the working world, and into a world
of men. Because she does not have a strong father figure in her life, she looks for love else where. Men love her body, and she loves the control this gives her. "Josie [sees] now that there [is] nothing she [can't] do with [men] (49)." She takes men's money and does with it as she pleases. She "[takes] the bus to a town across the border where she [sits] on her own in a cafe listening to a jukebox and eating ice-creams (...
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...e able to give an inanimate object its own character, and to do it well. Carn is an
excellent example of a well-developed character.
McCabe's views of life are demonstrated by the lives of Sadie and Josie, and the town of Carn. McCabe's characters' lives are replete with suffering and sorrow, and they all react with bitter resignation. Sadie, Josie, and Carn are resigned to accept their fates - Sadie's, involuntary life in Carn; Josie's, debauchery and death; and Carn's, economic desolation. Carn is very well written and is a wonderful book. However, not everyone will enjoy it. There is a considerable amount of history involved in it, so people who enjoy history will benefit from it. It is also very depressing, so
readers who love happy endings will be disappointed with the conclusion of the story. For these reasons I did not enjoy reading this book, however I do understand the literary merit that is displayed by McCabe. The story line and characters are well developed, and it is an interesting story. I recommend it to anyone who is learning about the conflicts in Ireland, or to anyone who likes to get to know fictional characters in a personal way.