Brian Moore

Brian Moore: A Critical Study

JO OʹDONOGHUE
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf2b3
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    Brian Moore
    Book Description:

    Moore grew up in Northern Ireland and as a young man spent a number of years travelling throughout Europe while working for the British Ministry of War Transport. In 1948 he left for Montreal, where he began his literary career. While living in Canada he supported his writing by working as a proof-reader, reporter, and pseudonymous thriller-writer. He wrote his first serious novel, Judith Hearne, during a stay of several months in a log cabin in Quebec's Laurentian Mountains. After eleven years in Canada, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and moved to New York. He eventually moved to Hollywood to write a film for Alfred Hitchcock and now lives in Malibu, California. Jo O'Donoghue identifies Moore as a writer particularly interested both in questions of religion and in a world he believes to have largely abandoned traditional spiritual values. Moore's Irish Catholic upbringing, she demonstrates, has located him in an enclosed, self-sufficient community with a strong sense of the spiritual. O'Donoghue regards Moore as remarkable among modern male novelists for the depth of his interest in women and the sensitivity and acuteness of his insights into women's psychology. Although Moore, in a literary career spanning more than thirty years, has published sixteen novels and one work of reportage and has won numerous literary prizes, he has only recently attracted the sort of consistent critical acclaim which is his due. The Colour of Blood finally secured recognition for him as one of the truly important novelists of the late twentieth century. O'Donoghue's study is the first major critical analysis of the work of this gifted and accomplished writer.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6300-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)

    BRIAN MOORE was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 25 August 1921, the fourth child in a family of nine. His father, James Brian Moore FRCS, was a surgeon at the Mater Hospital in Belfast. His mother, Eileen McFadden, came from Donegal. His father had married when he was fifty and died when Moore was eighteen.

    Moore was educated at St Malachyʹs Diocesan College in Belfast, whose ethos he describes as very harsh, clerical and old-fashioned. He was, he says, frequently caned for academic failure as well as for misdeeds. This kind of Catholic education of the 1930s in retrospect...

  5. Section I. The Early Belfast Novels

    • 1 Beleaguered Catholicism
      (pp. 3-15)

      IT may be argued that none of Mooreʹs protagonists is free, though the search for freedom and self-expression is one of his major themes, and that fatalism or determinism is one of the most consistent attributes of his writing. Although this argument contains a great deal of truth, it is nevertheless possible to illustrate that only in Moore’s first two novels, the novels of Belfast life in the 1950s, is his picture of life so bleakly pessimistic as to appear totally deterministic. BothJudith HearneandThe Feast of Lupercalare anti-religious and anti-Catholic because religion, far from liberating or...

    • 2 Religion without Belief— Judith Hearne
      (pp. 16-45)

      MOORE has spoken and written ofJudith Hearneas a novel of faith and also as a novel of failure. It represents the religious ‘climate’ of Belfast in the 1950s, as perceived by the wounded sensibilities of the involuntary exile. For Moore, the writer who has escaped, it is an evocation of what he has escaped and also of the factors which made it imperative for him to escape. It is greatly coloured by personal bitterness.

      I discovered in writing it what I really felt about my past. I left Ireland with the intention of not going back, but my...

    • 3 The Making of an Ulster Catholic— The Feast of Lupercal
      (pp. 46-59)

      AS IS the case with Judith Hearne, powerlessness is the main characteristic of the protagonist ofThe Feast of Lupercal, Diarmuid Devine. His experience of an educational system dominated by the clergy has moulded Diarmuid Devine both as a pupil and as a master. Moore is nowhere more anti-clerical than inThe Feast of Lupercal. Not only are the clerics who feature in the novel bigoted and intolerant, but they are also devious, self-seeking and power-hungry. None of them has the saving grace of self-forgetful zeal, a quality that is so noticeable, despite all his faults, in a later Moore...

    • CONCLUSION. Victims of Religion
      (pp. 60-64)

      IN THESE two early works set in Belfast, Moore recreates in considerable detail a society that is the product of a particular set of religious and political circumstances. Thus, the Catholicism that wields power and dominates Belfast society of the 1950s is like Catholicism in the rest of Ireland in its narrowness, its sexual puritanism, its devotionalism and its demand of unconditional respect for the clergy. Moore shows all these aspects at work inJudith Hearne. But these qualities, which in themselves would be enough to deny the members of such a Church freedom and dignity are further exacerbated by...

  6. Section II. Novels of Exile and Escape

    • 4 The Search for the Self
      (pp. 67-104)

      AFTER 1960, and after the two Belfast novels, Moore’s writing entered a phase which lasted until the late 1970s and which therefore encompasses the majority of his works. The novels of the 1960s and 1970s, in general, are preoccupied with the individual’s search for fulfilment and meaning by following beliefs which are not religious, but which may perhaps be regarded as spiritual in the sense of being profound, deeply held, ineluctable, even obsessive. In the ten novels published between 1960 and 1977, there are two apparent exceptions to this generalisation,The Revolution Script(1971) andCatholics, which followed in 1972....

    • 5 The Giving of Voice— An Answer from Limbo
      (pp. 105-116)

      INAn Answer from LimboBrendan Tierney’s perspective is not the only one in the novel, but because it alone is presented in the first person, it is the dominant one. Though Moore has said that in all his novels, he has tried to capture the ‘voice’ of his protagonists,An Answer from Limbois the first novel in which he entrusts the protagonist with his own story. He adopts this device not to show a characterʹs perception of morality and a deep-rooted guilt, as he does in the laterI am Mary Dunne, but to show precisely the opposite...

    • 6 The Fixed Centre— I am Mary Dunne
      (pp. 117-124)

      ‘I am Mary Dunne’ focuses on both the making of moral choices and the consequences of these choices. One of the most innovative of Moore’s works, this novel uses interior monologue to convey the irrational nature of its heroineʹs psyche—irrational because she is so much a victim of guilt.

      In his preface toThe Ambassadors, Henry James wrote of the dangers of the use of the first person—‘the darkest abyss of romance this’:

      Had I meanwhile, made [Strether] at once hero and historian, endowed him with the romantic privilege of the ‘first person’—the darkest abyss of romance,...

    • 7 The Multiple Perception— The Doctorʹs Wife
      (pp. 125-129)

      IFI am Mary DunneandThe Doctorʹs Wifeare both seen as—among other things—novels of adultery told from the adulterous female’s point of view, the differences in the way the stories are told will appear all the more startling. Where most of the action ofI am Mary Dunnetakes place in the past,The Doctor’s Wifeis notable for its immediacy and thepresentnessof its action. ‘Modern fiction’, says Norman Friedman, ‘is characterised by its emphasis on the scene (in the mind or in speech and action), while conventional fiction is characterised by its emphasis...

    • CONCLUSION. Liberty or Banishment?
      (pp. 130-132)

      LIKE Sheila Redden, the protagonists ofAn Answer from LimboandI am Mary Dunneescape the kind of religious domination under which Judith Hearne and Diarmuid Devine suffer in the Belfast novels. They also avoid the hideous fate of these characters. This is partly a result of changingmores, but primarily the consequence of an act of will, an act of self-liberation. Exile can be perceived both as an escape from stultifying influences and an escape to greater freedom. The focus of this freedom may not be perceived at first—the actual departure may take the term of an...

  7. Section III. Belief in A Secular World

    • 8 The Quest for a Higher Belief
      (pp. 135-148)

      IN Mooreʹs secular novels fromAn Answer from Limboonwards, his characters tend to know what they believe in and what they want to achieve. Though they may be unfree (as human beings always are) at some deeper level of the psyche, they are free to pursue their beliefs, in a way that would be unimaginable for the protagonists of the early Belfast novels. But gradually in Mooreʹs work, the focus changes to a searchforsomething to believe in. SinceThe Doctorʹs Wife(1976), the theme of searching, of quest, has become increasingly important. InThe Mangan Inheritance(1979),...

    • 9 Creating a God— The Temptation of Eileen Hughes
      (pp. 149-163)

      INThe Temptation of Eileen Hughes, Bernard McAuley is the archetypal ʹmodern man in search of a soulʹ¹ and through his story, Moore illustrates the cruelty of God and of the ʹgodsʹ. His story comes closer to tragedy than the fate of most of Mooreʹs protagonists, not just because he dies at the end, but because in his egoism, his failings, hishubris, he imitates the tragic hero. However, like most modern heroes, Bernard is at times too close to being ridiculous to qualify truly as a tragic figure.

      The decision to take Bernard McAuley as the main protagonist of...

    • 10 The Temptation of the Unbeliever— Cold Heaven
      (pp. 164-186)

      MARIE Davenport, the heroine ofCold Heaven, is in several ways very unlike Bernard McAuley. What is wrong in Bernardʹs life is that he lacks belief and tries to turn Eileen Hughes into the god of his idolatry. He is always painfully aware of this lack. Marie Davenport has a specific area of dissatisfaction in her life—she is about to leave her husband for another man—but this seems to her to be a temporary problem in a privileged and comfortable life. Where he fights for belief, she fights against some inexplicable force which tries to make her believe....

    • 11 The Cruelty of Belief— Black Robe
      (pp. 187-204)

      BECAUSE his fictional themes have been so resolutely and consistently contemporary, Mooreʹs one excursion into historical fiction in his 1985 novel,Black Robe, is difficult to place in the pattern of his work as a whole. The themes of the novel are familiar: the testing of the individual; the crisis of faith; the ʹsolvingʹ of that crisis by the resolution to live by the fiction of faith if not the reality, as the Abbot does inCatholics. Michael Paul Gallagher makes the point that if one comparesBlack Robeand Mooreʹs first novel,Judith Hearne, one finds ‘a plot at...

    • CONCLUSION. The Silence of God
      (pp. 205-210)

      THREE of Brian Mooreʹs most recent novels,The Temptation of Eileen Hughes, Cold Heaven and Black Robe,are works that treat of the necessity of some form of spiritual belief in the modern world. This most recent phase of Moore’s work was heralded by the disillusionment with secular beliefs which became obvious in the earlier period of his work. Still, as a writer, Moore is convinced that if people are to be kept from despair, some form of belief is essential. It is clear that he no longer thinks it sufficient for the individual to look for that belief in...

  8. Section IV. Politics as Morality

    • 12 A New Engagement with the Actual
      (pp. 213-218)

      THERE are some novelists for whom critics or readers attempt to write their next book, or at least to suggest the direction it should take. This exercise is certainly not to be recommended for a writer like Brian Moore. Who would have predicted a sequence of novels likeCold Heaven(1983),Black Robe(1985),The Colour of Blood(1987) andLies of Silence(April 1990)? Both in their themes and techniques, these last two novels might appear at first to be quite unlike anything previously attempted by Moore, but in fact, others of his novels have had some of the...

    • 13 Faith Versus Materialism— The Colour of Blood
      (pp. 219-228)

      INThe Colour of Blood, the country in question is fictional, reminding one most vividly of Poland, but is not, Moore has said, based on any one country: ʹI specifically synthesised a country of my mind, an Eastern European country that could be Hungary, or Czechoslovakia, or Ireland[!]ʹ He goes on:

      When I say Ireland, Iʹm perfectly serious. I took my descriptions of searches and check-points from my experience in Ireland rather than Eastern Europe. I wasnʹt trying to make any comparison between the occupation of Northern Ireland and the Russian presence in Poland. But at the back of my...

    • 14 The Killers’ Choice— Lies of Silence
      (pp. 229-242)

      LIES of Silence, published in April 1990, is set for the most part in contemporary Belfast, concerns itself with the political situation in Northern Ireland and has among its themes the ineluctable nature of moral choice and the random-ness of fate that picks one human being rather than the next. In the novel a young hotel manager, Michael Dillon, is forced to make choices, knowing that the consequences of any decision he makes may well be disastrous. In the politically realistic Belfast world of the novel, crisis is endemic beneath the surface of normal life, and for the duration of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 243-251)
  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 252-259)
  11. Index
    (pp. 260-266)