In the Butcher Boy, Patrick McCabe paints a picture of the perfectly dysfunctional family in The Bradys, who are shown in stark contrast to the perfectly normal family, the Nugents. From the start, Francie Brady's family was the epitome of unstable. Francie's father was an alcoholic who abused his wife, and she ended up going to a mental institution after a suicide attempt. The hero of the family, Uncle Alo, turned out to just be another phony whose stories were fabricated. Francie had no proper influences in his upbringing to tell him what was right and wrong, which left him to basically take care of himself. Francie wanted to be proud and honor his parents, but at the same time, the only reason he became alienated within the community was because of his family.
[...] is in the treatment of Francie that McCabe achieves his greatest triumph. The complexity of the character contributes to the tonal richness of the novel, as humorous as it is horrific, and—a most impressive accomplishment—never more harrowing than humane. At his most brutal, Francie never moves beyond the boundaries of the reader's sympathy” (Kenney). Francie's intelligence and sensitivity combined with the neglect and abuse from his parents, created a mind susceptible to fantasy. He often reads comic books, he eats lots of candy, he's stuck in the past, and he has vivid daydreams that are often violent. [...]
[...] Scenes such as this alarm the reader because we have understood the insincerity in the town, but now we realize that Francie is aware of it, and is repulsed by it as well. The only part of the community that Francie was a part of, was his friendship with Joe Purcell. The two were best friends as children, but because of Francie's downward spiral into violence and rebellion, Joe detaches himself from Francie. This could also be viewed as a part of the class issue in the town. [...]
[...] There is an obvious theme of the differences in class in the Irish town, and the stronghold that these differences has within the town. As he peers into the Nugent's house, Francie notices how clean and beautiful their home is: “They had a butter dish with a special knife, a blue striped jug with matching cups, all these things they had. It was as if just by being the Nugents it all came together as if by magic not a thing out of place” (McCabe 47). [...]
[...] Nugent that Francie stays in the role as well, so she can remain above him. Throughout the novel, Mrs. Nugents words become one of Francie's obsessions, which eventually take over his life and drive him to insanity. In a disturbing hallucination at the hospital, Francie imagines having to perform dances and songs for Mrs. Connolly for an apple, which he has to eat with no hands- like a pig. Francie describes Ma and Da pig finding him and being ashamed: did you take the apple you stupid little pig? [...]
[...] He often fantasizes about being in Philip's place, son of the genteel Mrs. Nugent and her tee totaling, pipe- smoking husband, rather than of the pathetically dysfunctional pair who are his actual parents. It is more than idle curiosity that sets him to peering into the Nugent's window, and it is not pubescent sexuality but his longing for a nurturing mother that generates the fantasies in which Mrs. Nugent offers him her breast” (Kenney). The combination of wanting to be in a family rather than his dysfunctional one, and wanting to keep his allegiance to his parents drives Francie further and further into an unstable and alienated state. [...]
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