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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ivy Day and The Wind that Shakes the Barley

A common thread among these two works is the conviction among the Irish that labor and the working class bears the greatest value to society. In Joyce's Ivy Day in the Committee Room in following passage we see the esteem for the working class expressed:

"The working-man," said Mr. Hynes, "gets all kicks and no halfpence. But
it's labour produces everything. The workingman is not looking for fat
jobs for his sons and nephews and cousins. The working-man is not going
to drag the honour of Dublin in the mud"

Hynes is characterizing the working class as the backbone of Irish integrity. He extols them for being honest and hard-working despite the circumstance of low wages. Even though they are unrecognized by their own society, their integrity does not wane. He says they are invariably downtrodden and marginalized by more priveledged white collar workers with "fat jobs" who recruit their entire family to do work that is less necessary than physical labor which he says "produces everything." If it is the working-class that Hynes believes makes everything, this comparison posits that white collar workers are idle and produce nothing. Hynes makes them out to be nothing more than paper shufflers reaping an easy life off the effort of the poorer working class.

The subservient nature of Jack and his acquiescence to the canvassers who are shirking their duties and drinking in the commitee room mirror Hynes sentiments. Joyce wants to illustrate the existing paradigm, where Jack (the workingman) maintains the fire and offers his seat up to the canvassers (the white collar class) who drink beer and unproductively discuss politics and reveal how they are canvassing for people they hardly support. While they are engaging in an intellectual endeavor, they rely only on an old nationalist hero (Parnell) to feel like the they are contributing to the welfare of their nation.

Similar to this, in The Wind that Shakes the Barley in an early scene in the bar, a common, working man speaks of how occupying British soldiers are being paid a "pound a day, out of our pockets." He trails off rebuking Churchill and scoffs at the idea that he is a "friend of the worker" (undoubtedly British propaganda during the occupation). This man's quote indicates that he too feels that he does represent the backbone of his society and is ill-treated in being made to pay (taxes, I presume) to be oppressed by the occupying British soldiers. The soldiers, are worse than idle white collared workers because they not only do not contribute to social production and order but impede and reverse it.

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