Sado-Masochism in Clare Boylan's Home Rule and Holy Pictures

By Shumaker, Jeanette Roberts | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview

Sado-Masochism in Clare Boylan's Home Rule and Holy Pictures


Shumaker, Jeanette Roberts, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


A well-known Dublin journalist who died in 2006, Clare Boylan published several novels and short story collections, including a completion of Charlotte Bronte's unfinished novel Emma Brown in 2003. (1) Boylan's first novel, Holy Pictures (1983), concerns Daisy Devlin Cantwell and her family of Dubliners during the 1920s; its prequel, Home Rule (1993) covers Daisy's family during the 1890s through 1920. Boylan meticulously researched the eras of Home Rule and Holy Pictures to portray them accurately, including "the preoccupations of daily life" (St. Peter 2000a: 49). Boylan deconstructs the family dynamics of urban Ireland from 1890-1930, by portraying mothers who violate the Irish ideal of maternal selflessness. (2)

As well as the changes to women's roles that industrialization brought to Ireland during the latter part of the nineteenth century, a devotional revolution occurred in the Irish Church that resulted in more rigid gender roles and a glorification of asexual maternity in the style of the Virgin (Gibbons 1996: 85). "The cult of the Virgin Mary, which flourished from the late nineteenth century--asserted in part in opposition to the Protestantism of the colonial rulers--strengthened the construction of asexual, maternal and domestic femininity upon which hyper-masculinity and socio- economic and sexual regulation depended" (Nash 1997: 115). Not only sexual regulation but self-sacrifice was required of women: "The cult of the Virgin endorsed not merely chastity and motherhood as womanly ideals, but also humility, obedience and passive suffering" (Innes 1993: 40). Jenny Beale (1986: 52) contends that even non-religious Irish mothers from the second half of the twentieth century felt guilty about their inability to reach the ideal of motherhood that the Virgin personifies. Yet Home Rule and Holy Pictures contain disturbing (though at times humorous) portrayals of mothers mistreating their daughters without feeling guilty.

Focusing upon the Madonna's influence upon women, Julia Kristeva's "Stabat Mater" helps explain mothers' aggressiveness towards their daughters in Boylan's works, along with the daughters' acceptance of such mistreatment. The worship of the Virgin common in Catholic nations like Ireland can encourage women to long to become unique among women, as the Madonna is (Kristeva 1986: 181). The urge to outdo other women may be shown through "exacerbated masochism . . . the highest sublimation alien to the body" that is associated with nuns and martyrs (181). Boylan's daughters embrace such masochism.

Like Kristeva's, Michelle Masse's ideas about female masochism in gothic novels shed light on the daughters' toleration of their mothers' cruelty in Home Rule and Holy Pictures. Masse analyzes Freud's beating drama that she contends underlies sado- masochistic relationships in the heterosexual family. "In dealing with others, the masochist replicates the interpersonal relations she knows: she may appropriate the power of the sadist and, in so doing, reproduces masochism" (1992: 51). Though Home Rule and Holy Pictures are not gothic novels per se, they do contain entrapment, abuse, suicide attempts, and molestation. With a cold eye, Boylan reveals that the viciousness of some mothers towards their daughters may have continued, generation after generation, in late-Victorian and early twentieth-century Dublin.

Masse explains the logic through which women may act cruelly whenever they can: "There is in such cases a basic conservative identification with the very system that assures their [women's] oppression: their limited status and power are asserted within such a system by damaging other women, children, and servants, for example" (1992: 62). Following Masse's model, Elinore Devlin of Home Rule makes her eldest daughter, Lena, into a household drudge as soon as she turns fourteen. Later, Elinore sends Lena away from her beloved suitor to work as an unpaid companion against her will. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sado-Masochism in Clare Boylan's Home Rule and Holy Pictures
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.