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The Irish Female Migrant, Silence and Family Duty in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn

José Carregal-Romero
p. 129-141


Colm Tóíbín’s Brooklyn (2009) traces the experiences of Eilis Lacey, a young woman who lives with her widowed mother and her older sister Rose in 1950s Enniscorthy, a small town in Ireland. Unfortunately, in the economically depressed Ireland of mid-twentieth century, opportunities for young women like Eilis are scarce. Even if the protagonist would like to remain in her hometown, her resolute sister arranges her settlement in New York, where an Irish priest secures her a job and a place to live within the diasporic community. Just as she begins to establish a new life on the other side of the Atlantic, a tragic event at home calls her back to Ireland. During her visit, Eilis faces the great dilemma of having to choose between duty and the fulfillment of her personal desires. She is finally forced to leave Enniscorthy once again, due to a prior engagement in America.

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Notes de l’auteur

The research carried out for this article was funded by the Autonomous Government of Galicia, Spain (Axudas Posdoutorais, ED481 2017/042). This essay is part of the projects FFI2017-84619-P AEI/FEDER, UE and ED431D2017/17, Rede de Investigación de Lingua e Literatura Inglesa e Identidade III, Xunta de Galicia.

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Ce document sera publié en ligne en texte intégral en novembre 2020.

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In this analysis of Brooklyn, I will tackle the ways in which, both in Ireland and in the diaspora, moral obligations, gender limitations and questions of family duty often stifled Irish women’s autonomy, silencing their own wishes and experiences. Unquestionably, the issue of emigration and the social expectations it entailed have proved to be a most relevant factor in Ireland. As Piaras Mac Éinri explains, between the years of the Great Famine and the 1950s, more than six million people left Ireland, a dramatic event which constituted a serious demographic anomaly, “a unique case in the world”. In the first half of the twentieth century, economic and social conditions were harsh for the majority of people in Ireland and this situation did not improve after independence in 1922. Emigration was a very common phenomenon in the lives of young women. Although national independence was “expected to signal the end of...

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Référence papier

José Carregal-Romero, « The Irish Female Migrant, Silence and Family Duty in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn », Études irlandaises, 43-2 | 2018, 129-141.

Référence électronique

José Carregal-Romero, « The Irish Female Migrant, Silence and Family Duty in Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn », Études irlandaises [En ligne], 43-2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 novembre 2020, consulté le 23 janvier 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesirlandaises.5785

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José Carregal-Romero

José Carregal-Romero obtained his PhD from the University of Vigo (Spain) in 2016, with a dissertation on Colm Tóibín’s fiction, which received the Inés Praga Terente Award by the Spanish Association of Irish Studies (AEDEI).He is now in receipt of a post-doctoral fellowship awarded by the Autonomous Government of Galicia, Spain (Axudas posdoutorais 2017), and is conducting part of his research at University College Dublin (2017-2018) and University College Cork (2018-2019).

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