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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Look at Father Keon in "Ivy Day"

One passage that I found particularly interesting in my reading of “Ivy Day” was the description and introduction of Father Keon (pages 106-107). Both his initial description and the conversation that follows about him relay a sense of ambiguity regarding his position in the community, which I believe reflects a broader distrust of the clergy in general during this period. The very first thing the narrator tells us about him is that in physical appearance he looks like either “a poor clergyman or a poor actor” (242). Or in other words, it is difficult to tell if this person is really a man of the cloth or simply pretending to be for political reasons. His true motivations are made even more obscure by the conflicting emotions he displays upon seeing the men gathered in the committee room (250-254). Either way, he is doing a “poor” job of it (an intentional pun?), because the moment Keon leaves the room, Mr. O’Conner asks, “Is he a priest at all?” (282). It seems to be common knowledge that Keon has been associating with political leaders at the pub (281), and Keon himself tells the Mr. Henchy that he is “looking for Mr. Fanning” (260-261). (According to footnote 6 on page 104, Mr. Fanning was the “mayormaker of the city”). We saw this same kind of shady political involvement on the part of the clergy both in The Wind the Shakes the Barley, and to a lesser extent, in the short documentary on Parnell (where the church visciously attacked him for his personal indiscretions). This interpretation is dependent on Father Keon being a representative of the Catholic Church in Ireland as a whole, of course, and not simply an errant individual (which might be suggested by lines 284-285).

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