Brooklyn Essay

Brooklyn Essay

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‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín captures a 1950’s perspective on the loss of identity and self discovery encountered by immigrants in an economically marginalised setting. A historical novel that exposes the challenges brought upon certain individuals through exposures to unfamiliar surroundings. Ireland being a conservative society, displays the restricted availability of resources and opportunities in contrast to America. The presence of social-hierarchy during that period in Ireland conveys the significance of status and patriarchy placed by teachings of catholic churches. Through Eilis’ encounters in her hometown, Tóibín demonstrates the confines surrounding the rigid hierarchies of the local Irish society. The struggles of Eilis to self grow and escape the confines of her previous life shows the hesitation of one’s true identity. The individual’s quest to purse a sense of identity can be influenced by the surrounding environment. The changes that occur to Eilis as she becomes part of Brooklyn, demonstrates how individuals modify their true selves in order to be accepted. Although finding a purpose in life can provide positive outcomes, changes in character can involve certain consequences. By incorporating migration, the novel illustrates the decisions that must be made between self identity and the prospect of living an independent life. Tóibín demonstrates through the experiences of Eilis, how adjusting to a new land can inflict the price of sacrifice and self change. Tóibín’s use of character experiences and diverse setting exposes the audience to the harsh reality of obstacles that coexist with immigration. Enniscorthy represents many of the positive attributes of home, the comfort, familiarity and acceptance. However for Eilis, it becomes a place that is characterised by loss and humiliation.The strict boundaries designated by the Irish- Catholic Church limits the power available to women during the 1950’s.This is evident through the experiences of Eilis, being bound to the confined Irish economy ;is limited to the opportunities available for occupation and a bright future. The reserved freedom and future Eilis holds in Enniscorthy is one of many reasons why she has been arranged to travel across to America. However the realisation that Eilis may live her life while being distant from her family and hometown becomes a challenge in which Eilis struggles to accept. “…the thought that she was going to lose this world for ever… that the rest of her life would be a struggle with the unfamiliar”. Evident through the fear and hesitation displayed by Eilis, Tóibín reveals how Eilis is mentally unprepared to escape the norms of her usual life in pursuit to find opportunities in a foreign place. The experiences of Eilis in Brooklyn convey the partial sense of loss and reminiscence that exists as she is constantly looking back to the past. “It seemed oddto her that Rose or their mother could not come at any moment and tell them to be quiet”.Eilis is caught up between two worlds, where she must determine her true self. Her inability to accept reality limits her chances of finding self-assurance and the opportunities to progress. Although Eilis’ experiences in Brooklyn are represented by a sense of regret and alienation, a form of acceptance gradually becomes a part of her new life. Brooklyn conveys the challenges faced among individuals who must comply with self transformation in order find acceptance in the world.The novel depicts Eilis’ isolation and insecurities that becomes visible as she is exposed to new experiences in Brooklyn. Being confronted with the hardships of immigration, her constant feelings of solitude and fear causes her to view the travel in a pessimistic way. “Nothing here was part of her. It was false, empty…”The author shows the inability of Eilis to find happiness and pleasure in her dwelling. Through Eilis’ perception, it is clear that she finds her existence in Brooklyn as meaningless and secluded. “It was like hell…because she could see no end to it, and to the feeling that came with it.” The struggle of Eilis to find self recognition in Brooklyn fades away as she manages to attain familiarity through social interactions. Eilis discovers acceptance through others and personal interests. Her constant belief that she may never return to the life she once had, causes her to seek out a replacement. Tóibín demonstrates how Brooklyn becomes a place for renewal, where Eilis is forced to recreate her own path without the influence of her family and Irish traditions. Tony’s support and company helps to diminish the loss and gradually the homesickness which Eilis experiences. The novel demonstrates how social interactions and relationships can help in finding acceptance and comfort. Tóibín reveals that such sensitive matters become a significant part of Eilis, one which assists her to form a substitute home. “It was a warm smile… and it suggested to her that he was stable”. Brooklyn displays the changes that occur to through the use of third person narrative. While being exposed to the challenges of immigration, Eilis conforms to a surrounding that becomes similar to home. A sense of familiarity and self recognition is found through the relationships she forms, but also the places that become recognisable to her. Eilis faces the ambiguous moral dilemma where she is pressured to choose between an independent life in Brooklyn and the old life controlled by her Irish mother. Through the experiences of Eilis, Brooklyn illustrates the sacrifices and changes that take place along with migration. The pressure to select between personal decisions and those of others is displayed when Eilis becomes influenced to return Enniscorthy. While self growth and confidence can provide many positive outcomes further in life, alterations in identity can often result in consequences. Eilis’ return to her old life creates a sense of uncertainty towards her true self, causing her to undergo poor moral choices that ultimately result in regret and doubt. “It made her feel as though she were two people, one that had battled…many hard days in Brooklyn and fallen in love there, and the other who was her mother’s daughter.”Through the changes in Eilis’ perception of her new life in America, the novel shows how places and expectations can influence an individual’s beliefs and decisions. ‘She could not stop herself from wondering, however, what would happen if she were to write to Tony to say that their marriage was a mistake. How easy would it be to divorce someone?’Eilis realises that being in Ireland could possibly provide a better future”. Brooklyn conveys through the experiences and events, how social and cultural pressures can cause readjustment of an individual’s self. Toibin’s illustration of immigration during a 1950’s period further displays the standards placed upon individuals. The loss of identity and need to reform one’s true self, is influenced

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