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The Critical Work around Marina Carrs By the Bog of Cats (Allie) Marina Carrs By the Bog of Cats... is a complex work which incorporates social commentary about many aspects of contemporary Ireland. Carr creates a place for herself in Irish cannon by using motifs from her predecessors and by making similar material distinctly her own. It is helpful to examine her work with gender, race, politics, and the postcolonial state of Ireland in mind. By the Bog of Cats... has clear similarities to other notable Irish works. It has its roots in a more general Irish tradition through the characterization of Hester: she is reminiscent of a filidh figure, or a local storyteller with the ability to curse people. Also, Carrs work has elements of Yeats, Synge, and Beckett. By the Bog of Cats... has parallels to Yeats Purgatory, which is a play about a poor travelling man who kills his father and his son with the same knife. Additionally, Carr has a sense of the grotesque that is similar to that of JM Synge, but Synges use of gross notes is playful and humorous while Carrs is deliberately violent. Finally, the stasis of waiting in a bleak landscape that Hester endures evokes Estragon and Vladimir of Waiting for Godot. Carrs play has clear connections to the work of her forefathers. Furthermore, her work can be read through a feminist lens. Carr depicts a society where women are mistreated and are bought and sold through marriage. One interpretation of Hesters murder of her child is that she would rather kill Josie than leave her in a patriarchal society where she would not have much support. Carr includes women who break out of feminine roles, but she does not portray them in a very feminist way: for example, Big Josie does not define her identity just through being Hesters mother, but her actions towards Hester are not condonable. Carr also places great importance on female (mother/daughter) relationships, but she makes clear that they lead to destruction. Carrs work has attracted feminist critics who are displeased with her characters constant need for men and their tendency towards suicide instead of working for solutions. Connected Carrs statements about women are her statements about exile. Because of their position in the patriarchal society of the bog, women are easy targets for exile. Being forced to leave the bog is especially problematic for Hester, because her identity is tied up with waiting for her mother on the Bog of Cats. One explanation for Hesters suicide arises out of this view: because ghosts roam the bog, Hesters death is an attempt to stay in the only place she knows. Additionally, Carr portrays tension between the settled people and the Travelers. In order to strengthen their community, the people on the bog see Hester as the Other, and they band against her. Traveler status is defined by heredity, and another proposed reason that Hester kills Josie is because as an illegitimate child, she will be stigmatized as a Traveler and have limited opportunities as a result of of her heritage. The political climate of the time is also relevant to the play. In 1998, Irelands economy was booming and the ideals of capitalism were being instilled. This led to a rise in individualism and a distancing from the strong cultural community that had just rejected the British colonialism. European notions were colonizing Ireland again in a different sort of way, and Carr creates postcolonial characters in order to comment on this change. Most of the characters of the play are trying to do things the modern way, and Hester (and Catwoman) represent the leftovers of traditional Ireland. The characters who are the most clearly capitalist (Xavier and to some extent Carthage) are the most harshly portrayed in the work. Carr shows that Hesters traditional claim to land has been discarded in favor of a culture dependant on paperwork, people

who practice old traditions are stigmatized, and pieces of history that only exist in an oral tradition (like Big Josies songs) are likely to be lost. Carr receives some criticism from a postcolonial standpoint as well: two main critiques are that because she has set the play in rural and historical Ireland and because she is using a plot that is not Irish in origin she is working within the colonial framework instead of challenging it. Carrs work is heavily layered and multi-faceted. As a female playwright, Carr has already done an admirable job of making her way into the Irish cannon. Her play By the Bog of Cats... is politically and culturally rich, and her portrayals of feminism, exile, racism, and postcolonialism are complex. She has created a nuanced piece of work that challenges the members of her audience to re-evaluate any tidy definitions of Irish culture that they may possess.

Additional Info/Outline 1. Where does Marina Carr fit into the Irish cannon? a. Connections to general Irish tradition i. the filidh, the Irish bard who passed down memories and stories with a great degree of integrity because of his staggering memory. Marina Carr's Hester Swane is a contemporary filidh figure, a source of local folklore and teller of stories; she is feared for her curses, much as the older Gaelic bards were. (Russell152) b. Purgatory i. While this perceived suffering on the part of Yeats's Old Man for his mother and Carr's Hester for her daughter bespeaks their deluded states of mind, their child murders also spring from a real love for their offspring. After the Old Man kills his son, he sings him a lullaby (Russell161) c. Playboy of the Western World i. the important link between Carr's Hester and Synge's Christy is that both are wandering storytellers who bind themselves to communities through their use of heightened language. (Russell156) ii. the playfulness of Synges grotesque is absent in these examples, and [it] no longer provokes the congenial laughter in shock of these mutated accounts (Bourke 136) d. Waiting for Godot i. Godot and its emphasis on waiting, moreover, help us understand the stasis that pervades By the Bog of Cats .... These leftover decadent characters, decked out in the faded finery of their period bowler hats, are remnants from another era. Hester Swane, too, is a remnant, the last of her line of filidh-type figures who are great storytellers. She, too, lives a purgatorial existence in a wintry wasteland that bears some resemblance to the empty landscape surrounding Beckett's tramps. (Russell 165) 2. Feminism a. Position of women in society/Female experience i. Women, in The Bog of Cats [sic], arrayed for the bridal or for communion in white which mimics the ice-cold world which kills the black swan, are treated as commodities. They are reified, prostituted, and violated sexually, consumed by and incorporated into the cash nexus (King 57) ii. [Hester] will take the girl child Josie with her into the Bog of Cats rather than have her repeat her own quest for a denied identity and a missing mother in a male dominated society (King 58) b. Women who break the mold i. Josie Swane had both a shameless sexuality and a voice of her own, and she further defied convention by placing both - as well as her proclivity for drink - above her role as a mother (Kader 172) c. Importance of female (mother/daughter) relationships i. Mother-love, as the Greek construction of gender proposes, is the most powerful natural emotional bond (Martinovich 121)

ii. Hesters tragic fall is brought about by her eternal belief that her mother will return one day and by her hope of a reciprocal manifestation of her daughterly affection and love (Martinovich 127) iii. [Hester] cannot wholly recall [the narrative of her mother] alone, but desperately needs it to define her own identity. (Wallace 444) d. Critiques of feminists i. Perhaps Carr's protagonists' undeniable need for the men in (as well as those out of) their lives is what makes some critics uncomfortable with her personal brand of feminism (Kader 168) ii. Carrs heroines in these plays seem to abdicate from a confrontation with the patriarchy, or if they do engage they, disappointingly, throw in the towel by committing suicide (Wallace 435) 3. Exile a. Women i. [Big Josie Swanes disappearance] further compound[s] the association of woman with displacement, exile and historical erasure. (Shira 212) b. Symbolism i. in Irish literature birds and the people associated with them are figured as exiles or symbols thereof (Kader 169) c. Place as identity i. Without the bog and all that it represents, she does not know how to define herself, and this is the primary reason that she resists the idea of exile. (Kader 182) ii. it has been made clear that Hester has very few real friends, but, as the members of the community are part of the makeup of the landscape through which Hester defines herself, she depends on their nearness for her own self-identification (Kader 182) d. Beliefs about afterlife i. Ghosts pervade this world and are, themselves, an irremovable part of the landscape of the Bog of Cats. In death, Hester is physically returning to the bog (Kader 184) ii. Carr, unwilling to embrace a neat closure, suggests that the restored order will not bring happiness to the surviving community which has been irreparably damaged by the events leading to this extremity (Bourke 144) 4. Racism/Travelers a. Conflict between settled people and Travelers i. the Catwoman has (limited) powers of prophecy, which the settled people seem to ignore (King 54) ii. The settled people, however, cannot afford to accept Hester on equal terms. To do so would jeopardize their epistemic we, which can only guarantee its legitimacy by defining itself against her, by making her leave their place. (King 57) b. Mistreatment i. integral to the entrenched racismis the very strength of the sense of community in Ireland (Maxwell 124) but identifying and excluding the Other, community is created.

c. Heritage i. the characters engage with racially pejorative terminology, competing for predominance in the social hierarchy, and desperately attempting to negate any dubious personal genealogical connections (Maxwell 124) ii. In the dramatic world of By the Bog of Cats, the best thing that Monica Murray can do by way of mitigating the assault on Hester, as a traveler, is to expose the fact that her most foul antagonist is a traveler too (Merriman 154). d. Not getting any better i. the deaths of Josie and Hester are the culmination of an engagement with the silencing of the voice of the Traveller. Hesters symbolic silencing of her own daughter, and then herself, may appear to be a very violent act of retrenchmenthowever, this act is performed in order to break a negative cycle of familial dysfunction and social discrimination (Maxwell 129). 5. Politics/Celtic Tiger a. Individualism i. Hesters accusation of Carthage rising up on Josephs ashes is a robust critique of social status depending upon such rampant individualism as the characters of By the Bog of Cats habitually exhibit (Maxwell 127) ii. Contemporary Ireland faces every day a profound historical irony: the diverted teleology of the nation-state demands the abandonment of the egalitarian and communitarian aspirations of anti-colonial nationalism. Such a contradiction ensures an unsettled country (Merriman 147). 6. Post-colonialism a. The community is trying to stomp out the old ways of doing things in favor of modernization i. Carr's play is about isolated, rural, Pagan Ireland, as represented by Hester, and its struggle to maintain its traditions against the new conventions of universal modernity, as represented by her community (Kader 167) b. Old beliefs turn into insults i. Because modern Christian culture has elevated itself above the previous Pagan one the term 'witch' serves as a term to denigrate those (especially women) associated with the antiquated belief system of rural Ireland (Kader 180) c. Older customs around land are not longer relevant i. Hester's claims to the land throughout the play are purely emotionalWhile this emotional connection may, by modern legal standards, be laughable, Hester's and Xavier's dispute recalls the greater dispute that arose between the native Irish (as well as many other cultures) and the British forces in the era of colonization (Kader 183) d. Loss of oral tradition i. Significantly, the resounding of big Josies voice through her granddaughter presents another challenge to the established order, through

its utilization of an appropriately cultural-specific medium: orality (Maxwell 127). e. Problems through a postcolonial lens i. Ireland is still very colonized 1. the escape route from the nineteenth century imperialism turns out to lead directly to collusion with the imperialist project of the twenty-first century (Merriman 146) ii. Carr works within the colonial framework and does not challenge it 1. Content which appears to be quintessentially Irish is overlaid with tropes and conventions deriving from Greek cosmology filtered through the pedagogical systems of the Anglo-American world (Merriman 152). 2. such collusion raises the prospect of a lesser public role for the theatre itself, in which its credentials as spectacle overpower its ethical obligation to critique and thus enable renewal of the social order (Merriman 159)

Bibliography Bourke, Bernadette. Carrs cut throats and gargiyles: Grotesque and Carnivalesque Elements in By the Bog of Cats The Theatre of Marina Carr:before rules was made. Cathy Leeny and Anna McMullan, ed. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2003. Carr, Marina. By the Bog of Cats... Plays 1. London: Faber and Faber, 1998. --. Forward. Women in Irish Drama: A Century of Authorship and Representation. Melissa Shira, ed. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. Kader, Emily L. "The Anti-Exile in Marina Carr's By the Bog of Cats ." Nordic Irish Studies 4.(2005): 167-187. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 10 Oct. 2011. King, Mary. "The Body out of Place: Strangers, Intimates and Destabilized Identities in Synge's When the Moon Has Set and Marina Carr's By the Bog of Cats ." Critical Survey 15.1 (2003): 48-59. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCO. Web. 3 Oct. 2011. Leeny, Cathy. Irelands exiled women playwrights: Teresa Deevy and Marina Carr. The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth Century Irish Drama. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Martinovich, M.K. The Mythical and the macabre: The Study of Greeks and Ghosts in the Shaping of the American premiere in By the Bog of Cats The Theatre of Marina Carr: before rules was made. Cathy Leeny and Anna McMullan, ed. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2003. Maxwell, Margaret. The Histories of Yeer Blood: Exclusion, Social Inequality, and GeneticFallacy in Marina Carrs By the Bog of Cats and Portia Coughlan. What Rough Beasts? Irish and Scottish Studies in the New Millennium. Shane Alcobia-Murphy, ed. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. Merriman, Victor. Poetry shite: A Postcolonial Reading of Portia Coughlan and Hester Swayne. The Theatre of Marina Carr:before rules was made. Cathy Leeny and Anna McMullan, ed. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2003. Russell, Richard. "Talking with Ghosts of Irish Playwrights Past: Marina Carr's "By the Bog of Cats...." Comparative Drama 40.2 (2006): 149-168. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 3 Oct. 2011. Shira, Melissa. The House of Woman and the Plays of Marina Carr. Women in Iris Drama: A Century of Authorship and Representation. Melissa Shira, ed. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007. Wallace, Clare. A crossroads between worlds: Marina Carr and the Use of Tragedy. After History. Martin Prochazka, ed. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2006. --. Tragic Destiny and Abjection in Marina Carrs The Mai, Portia Coughlan, and By the Bog of Cats Irish University Review. 31.2 (2001): 431-449. Watt, Stephen. Specters of Beckett: Marina Carr and the other Sam. Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.