Book Review: The Cripple Of Inishmaan

The Cripple Of Inishmaan, by Martin McDonagh

This is the second play by the author I have read, and having been familiar with the author’s work now, it was easier to understand.  The cliches in both plays stood in sharp relief–there were bullying girls who longed for affection but were more violent than any of the guys, a combination of farce and tragedy, as well as a sour view of small town Irish life that showed a gossipy small town unable to accept the desire of its resident cripple Billy for the possibility of a better life in America.  Humorously enough, it should be noted, the United States is viewed mainly as the source of movies and the legitimacy their filming brings to an area as well as a source of candy for comparatively poor Irish people [1].  If you like your tragicomedies filled with nearly unpronounceable and difficult to understand Irish accents talking about poteen and trading on gossip and lies, well, this play ought to be enjoyable for you.  I felt a strange but pervasive sense of dissatisfaction with the triviality of the society presented and the difficulty the author made in coming at any truth by relying on flagrantly unreliable narrators.

All of this makes for one frustrating read.  Perhaps this play is more enjoyable to see in the theater, but it does not make for enjoyable reading.  There is a lot of repetition to be found here, sometimes with slight details changed from one retelling to another, in an attempt to deliberately confuse the mundane and boring details of the lives of the fictional people in a small Irish town that no one likely cares about.  At the core of the story is a young orphan named Billy who is crippled and deformed and thought to be particularly intellectually impaired.  Of course, this is mainly because his surviving family and neighbors are largely too ignorant to recognize him as a clever young man filled with deep and frustrated longings.  The fact that I was able to identify so strongly with Billy made the other characters of this play largely insufferable, as they are needlessly cruel to him to the point of being abusive both physically as well as verbally.  The more you like Billy, the less you will like this town and the people in it.  At least, I can say pretty bluntly, that was the case for me.

This is a play that like the author’s work in general has tragic and ironic twists, a taste for violence and farce, and a certain sense of criticism of the Irish.  At the core of this play seems to be the realization that small towns often lack a lot to do, and that in the absence of larger news there is a tendency for such areas to turn in on themselves and become oppressive cauldrons of gossip and whispering campaigns, as is the case here.  Additionally, the author appears to be making a strong point that many people resist not only change in their own personal lives but also changes that other people may make to better their lives, because if someone like Billy can rise above the status of being viewed as a submoronic cripple, then those around him feel judged for having sold him far too short and viewing him far too poorly.  That this is the truth, and that at least some characters have occasional flashes of remorse for their behavior towards Billy.  This play did not greatly encourage me about the general quality of the author’s work as a whole, as it appears that the author has a narrow range of plays about quirky but ridiculous Irish people that the playwright encourages the audience to view with a sense of ironic distance and contempt, and that is not a mode I particularly enjoy.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: The Cripple Of Inishmaan

  1. Pingback: Book Review: A Lie Of The Mind | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: W;t | Edge Induced Cohesion

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