The following sample essay on the Lonely Passion Of Judith Hearne offers a framework of relevant facts based on the recent research in the field. Read the introductory part, body and conclusion of the paper below.
The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne was written by Brian Moore and set in pre Troubles Belfast in the ’50s. When Jack Clayton decided to make a film of the book in 1987 he decided to move the location to 1950s Dublin. At first these seems quite a strange thing to do, they were obviously two very different cities in, one could argue, two different countries.
By setting it outside Belfast, the director is making a conscious decision to simply eradicate the major section of a community which must have some implications upon the integrity of the story line and character development. This is what I would like to discuss tonight. Furthermore the portrayal of the major characters has definitely been altered. Part of this can be put down to the director’s own interpretation but it cannot be ignored that he has deliberately changed the personality of some of these characters.
Now, I am going to assume that none of you has watched this film and not many of you have read this book. But what I am assuming is that everybody has a basic idea of the situation in the North. I propose therefore to first of all give you a broad outline of 1950s society in both Belfast and Dublin so that we can open a discussion comparing the two.
And then I’m going to choose three or four passages taken from the novel and show the clips in the film. In this way you get a rest from me! And, if you don’t mind doing a little bit of reading, it makes for a more informed discussion. Let me first tell you something about Brian Moore. He was born in 1921, which was a very important year for Ireland as a whole.
First of all they established independence from the British Empire and secondly we had partition in the North. Moore was one of nine children. His father was a surgeon and on the whole the family experience was a happy one. Moore attended St. Malachay’s, a grammar school where, according to Moore they “were beaten all the time… So you could go through the entire day being beaten on the hands, day in, day out, everything was taught by rote. This was a Catholic school in a predominantly Protestant milieu; therefore we had to get better marks than the Protestant schools.
We were then beaten and coerced into achievement, and we weren’t really taught anything. ” Moore left St. Malachay’s without the leaving cert because he failed his Maths. He experienced the Second World War as a volunteer coffining dead bodies but was then hired by the British Ministry of War Transport to go as a Port Official to Algiers, North Africa. After one brief visit to Belfast after the war, Moore finally emigrated to Canada where he worked as a reporter. Belfast, which he considered a claustrophobic backwater trapped in the nightmare of history, left him feeling angry and bitter. It was at this stage that he felt the need to try and write Belfast out of his system “and look for a new world in which I and my characters could live. ” It was at this point that he began writing The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne which was published in 1955. The reasons for Moore writing Judith Hearne and the themes highlighted within the novel do call into question the decision to situate the film in Dublin. Briefly, the story centres on middle-aged Judith Hearne who moves from one bed and breakfast to another.
Having devoted the best years of her life to the welfare of a severely demanding maiden aunt she has little respite in her life other than romantic dreams and the communal fellowship of Sunday Mass. As if in answer to a prayer, James Madden comes on to the scene, her landlady’s brother and recently returned from America. He upon seeing some expensive jewelry on her, is misled into believing she has money and views her as a potential financial partner. Although she finds him a trifle “common” Judith Hearne tempers her dreams with a certain amount of realism and realizes that Madden is her last chance to fulfill a desperate desire to be loved. What follows is a tragedy of errors and when the awful realization of the situation dawns on Judith Hearne she turns first to drink as a way of escape and then to the church where the priest mismanages her cruelly. The novel reaches its climax when Judith Hearne attacks the sanctuary in her desperate crisis of faith and collapses in a scene of total degradation and despair. The novel ends with Judith Hearne in a sanitorium having lost her dignity and her faith-a rather bleak future. That essentially is a synopsis of the story line.
What may be useful, however, is if I give you an idea of what each of these cities was like in the 1950s. It is important to realize that the novel Judith Hearne very much reflects Moore’s feelings about the city. This novel and the two novels that followed was his attempt at trying to exorcise Belfast out of his system and there are various passages in the novel which highlight the isolation and alienation felt by the Nationalist community and it was from this he trying to escape. But in trying to escape he couldn’t shake off this feeling of terrible loneliness and this is one of the main themes running through the novel. Looking at the make up of Belfast it is easy to understand these feelings. Belfast was, unlike Dublin, an industrial city. I’m sure that when you think of Belfast you think of the sectarian conflict and the murals but one of its enduring images is the big shipping gantries with H and W on them. In fact those little link films on the BBC shows a group of boys skateboarding with those gantries behind them. The message is probably lost on most of the population but this was intended to show a more positive image of Belfast, an industrial, prosperous city that built the Titanic.
But this is a very Protestant image and Belfast is a very Protestant city. Protestants believed that they had created Belfast through hard work and enterprise, a triumph over mud and water, the result of successive merchants, engineers and entrepreneurs. The Nationalists on the other hand, believed that Belfast had always been theirs and that the land had been taken from them. Furthermore they were excluded from the job market. Belfast in the 50s saw Protestants quite powerful and Catholics very isolated and marginalized. Belfast was an unhappy, fragile city where violence seethed below the surface.
So what about Dublin? Can it compare with Belfast? Well, Dublin, having achieved independence from the British Empire and then endured a very bitter civil war was under the control of a politician who still believed in Mother Ireland and who attempted to maintain a rural way of life. The laws of Ireland were entwined with the Catholic church which resulted in a highly conservative, restrained and many would say oppressed nation Its relations with Britain were extremely poor, where embargoes were imposed by Britain causing a collapse in the economy and massive unemployment. Ireland’s position of neutrality in the Second World War if anything worsened relationships and it would be fair to say that Ireland was the sick man of Europe – high unemployment and huge emigration. Let’s have a look at the first clip which covers the opening of the novel. I’ve included some extracts for you to read in order to compare the two scenes. In the novel, I believe Moore was quite keen to portray Middle Class Belfast in decline and to give a sense of its isolation and decline through its shabbiness.
Moreover, Moore wants to present us with a middle aged, unattractive, snobbish and desperately lonely spinster who is herself kept out of the most powerful institution upheld by the Catholic Church and that is the woman seen as the wife and the mother and the heart of the home. Judith Hearne fails to achieve the role expected of her and as a result she is only ever a visitor to those domestic spaces normally assigned to women. This is what we see in the first clip. Incidentally, I’ve included in the novel’s extracts Judith Hearne’s reaction to Bernard Rice, the landlady’s son. She is a woman who feels the pressure to view every man as a potential suitor but I do find the director’s interpretation rather interesting. Perhaps what the Catholics do have in common in both cities is this repressive apparatus of the church and the family which dominates their lives. You will see that Moore’s characters are very much determined by Catholicism. Its strictures dictate the attitudes, behaviour and beliefs of the Catholic community both in Belfast and in Dublin.
Freedom within such a structure is merely an illusion and any attempt to live outside its tenets or indeed question its ideology can result in psychological distress. This is exactly what happens to Judith Hearne, her whole existence is dependent upon the church and her faith and when this faith is shaken and she begins to question the very existence of God she has also to question her very reason for being, which leads to a breakdown. This we’ll see in one of the later clips. The main difference, I can see between Belfast and Dublin is this feeling of being at once locked out and hemmed in. There is no doubt that the Nationalist community suffered feelings of dislocation after Partition and that the Unionists’ endeavours to keep them essentially ghettoized and poor led to feelings being locked into small spaces. Hence the use of the Bed and Breakfast as a backdrop, where as Moore puts it all the houses are partitioned off. This is very much a statement Moore was making about the Nationalist community in Belfast.
The way many Nationalist writers coped with these feelings was through nostalgia and an abiding involvement with the past. This we can see in the first clip when Judith Hearne unpacks her photograph of her dead aunt and the oleograph of the Sacred Heart. She continually returns to the past to seek some comfort which is in fact exactly what Moore is doing. I included the first meeting between James Madden and Judith Hearne just so you could see the relationship develop. For Hearne, Madden represents that opportunity to become part of that role assigned to women. But to the first question which is does it really matter that the film is changed to an entirely different city?
Does it work? In the second clip, which is about 15 minutes long we see the fourth date between Judith Hearne and James Madden and this rather unfortunate misunderstanding between the two characters which results in the start of Judith Hearne’s breakdown. I have included two important passages from the book which have been totally removed from the film but are of some significance to Moore’s novel as a whole. The first takes place at the end of the movie they’re watching which clearly situates the action in Belfast. As does the second which follows the couple through the city centre of Belfast as opposed to a bridge across the Liffey in Dublin which is what we see in the film. If you read those two passages and maybe we could open a debate over whether their exclusion is a problem. The second issue is the latent violence which lies beneath and throughout the novel. This violence will become obvious as you watch the clip and I’ll be interested to here what you make of it because again there is a very good reason why Moore included this scene in the novel but I’m not sure if it is fully explored in the film because of changing the location.