Critical Review Of Carn By Patrick Mccabe

Critical Review: 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 (51). Soon, however, this path leads to destruction. Her whole life
becomes devoted to drinking alcohol and pleasing men. She is disgusted with what she has become
and tries to blot out her pitiful life with alcohol. She sees how awful her life is when The protection
of the drink and the drugs begin to wear off (145). The only good influence in Josie’s life is her
lone friend Sadie. In the end, though, not even this makes a difference. An overdose of pills mixed
with alcohol kills Josie before Sadie can reach her. McCabe is very pessimistic, and he gives this
quality to his characters. Little by little, as the book progresses, Josie looses her mind. The author
allows the reader to see Josie’s thoughts, which aides in understanding a demented person. The
effects of abuse, sexual exploitation, and alcohol are seen in Josie’s character. The reader feels pity
toward Josie and the outcome of her life. McCabe does an excellent job of characterizing Josie

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The character of Sadie Rooney is also a sad and hopeless one. McCabe relates the reader
to Sadie through stories of Sadie’s childhood dreams. When she was a child …she loved Elvis
Presley. She would have gone anywhere with him… (23). Readers can identify with Sadie’s love of
movie starrs and desire for a better life. As her life progresses, however, her hopes are dashed
when she becomes pregnant and must raise a family in the town she hates, Carn. When she learns
of her pregnancy, she feels nothing and says, That’s it then (115). She is bitter, yet resigned to
the fact that nothing she planned ever came to pass. Nothing can affect her any more, because her
life is already terrible. Eventually, her husband becomes involved in a murder, and she is hated by
the people of Carn. McCabe gives readers a definite idea of Sadie’s views on life. Her


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