Paddy Clarke ‘Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha’ has no authorial presence at all. Yet the reader gains a richer understanding of Paddy’s situation than he, or any ten year old child, could ever have. How does Roddy Doyle achieve this with regard to Paddy’s parent’s break up? One of the first and most relevant passages in the book is when Patrick wakes up and hears the television and from that knows that his parents are still awake. He stays on the stairs and listens to ‘Ma’ and ‘Da’ arguing in the kitchen. We can tell that he doesn’t want to believe that there is any serious trouble by the fact that as soon as it stops he ‘realises’ that it wasn’t anything to worry about and goes back to bed.
Another event leading up to Paddy’s parent’s break up is when Ma decides that it is time they went out for a family outing. However, as it was raining they had to take the car and drive to a place that was close enough to walk but the weather wouldn’t allow them to. The family has a picnic in the car but, oblivious to Paddy and his brother, his parents are having another disagreement. Patrick hears his mother say something but think that his father hears her. He doesn’t realise that ‘Da’ is ignoring her.
When ‘Ma’ leaves the car Paddy and his brother assume that she has gone for ice creams but she gets back in because “It was too wet for Cathy”. Patrick knows that something had happened but didn’t know what. On several occasions the subject is changed to avoid the children being subjected to the tension between ‘Ma’ and ‘Da’. In one instance Paddy walks in from school and into an argument. This makes him more aware of the problems, his father then asks him about school to change the conversation. From this passage I have noticed that Patrick seems to view things as black and white, not in the literal sense but as straight forward and short term.
He doesn’t realise that things go deeper or that he has a false sense of control. Another of the most important pieces of this book is when Paddy is sitting on the stairs listening to his parents arguing and he is rocking back and forth. This shows that the tension between his parents is affecting him more than anyone thinks. The ‘rocking’ action can be described as tension deficit, which can be caused by loneliness or attention seeking. In Roddy Doyle’s novel, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, young Patrick is so distressed over his parents’ fighting with each other that he stays up all night trying to prevent their quarrels.
Like many children whose parents break up, Patrick thinks he is somehow responsible, but he does not understand what is going wrong or why. He loves both of them, especially his mother. He acts out his anxiety over the discord between his parents by often getting into fights and by being mean and abusive to his younger brother. For awhile he thinks that if he were to run away, his parents would stay together. He thinks of questions to ask them so they will talk to him and not fight with each other.
But his father leaves for good, and Paddy is left with the teasing chant of his schoolmates: “Paddy Clarke, Paddy Clarke, Lost his Da, Ha, Ha, Ha.”.