Our first week’s post and discussion topic comes from Galway, Ireland from Dani Gill. Dani is an English graduate of the National University of Ireland, Galway. She works at the Galway Arts Centre where she is involved in both theatre and literary events. Currently, she is working on the 25th Cúirt International Festival of Literature. She is also a writer and avid book lover.
When I reached part four of Brooklyn, I was fairly certain that I knew how it would end. Eilis’ return to Ireland was for me, the most interesting and the most surprising part of the story. At this point it became obvious that the subtlety of Tóbín’s writing had been feeding the character of Eilis throughout the novel. It is only when back in Wexford that she seems to finally realise freedom and the power of choice. Her sudden new found prestige within her community gives her a sense, possibly for the first time, of real confidence. Up until this moment she has been steered through the text, powered by the ambitions of others and the momentum of change. Her companionship with Tony and her progressions through study seem only to further carry her through a new world where she never gets to explore her own identity or purpose. Indeed, we could look on Tony’s concern with her departure as a want for control over her life, a life that has already been under the watchful eye of Mrs. Keogh, Father Flood and to a lesser extent Miss Fortini. How should we feel about her betrayal of the man who loves her? Is it a moment of release from relentless oppression? Is it the consequence of his pressure for commitment? Or is it her own personal failure to be honest with herself?
It was particularly clever that the book leaves us at a point of both limbo and decision. We are not quite sure what her major decisions are but it seems to be the principle of choice that she relishes in the final paragraph of the book when she thinks of the importance of the moment when she has decided to return to Brooklyn. Tóibín leaves us at the beginning of Eilis’ real journey perhaps. What happens next? Are we to think of her going west again as cyclical? As a new beginning? Is the internal change of her character all that is really important? And how does our understanding of the ending allow us to interpret the text as a whole?