The quiet man and Angela's ashes: hollywood representations of Irish emigration as male quest narrative

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Renes, CM 2007, 'The quiet man and Angela's ashes: hollywood representations of Irish emigration as male quest narrative', Estudios Irlandeses, vol. 2, p. 93-106.

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his paper analyses Alan Parker’s Angelas Ashes (1999) against John Ford’s seminal The Quiet Man (1952). Both Hollywood productions reflect on the Irish return myth, adapting the homonymous memoir by Frank McCourt (1996) and short story by Maurice Walsh (1933) respectively. Although Angelas Ashes reverses The Quiet Man‘s mythical depiction of early 20thc. west of Ireland as rural paradise, the urban ‘inferno’ the former paints can be equally understood as the product of a romantic mindset which combines Irish émigré nostalgia with male quest narrative. Both views are the result of the objective each male protagonist pursues –a return to Ireland in The Quiet Man and to the USA in Angelas Ashes– and, thus, the divergence in their perception of Ireland may be explained as instances of romance in which Ireland and its culture is reduced to opposing caricatures in the service of wish-fulfilment. Not surprisingly, the criticism of capitalist, industrial America embedded in Walsh’s story, masked as psychological conflict in Ford’s screenplay, and the rags-to-riches American immigrant success story of McCourt’s memoir were adapted to the screen with different degrees of independence from mainstream US film production. This gives additional clues on each film’s use of traditional Irish imagery to the point that Ford’s The Quiet Man may be understood to deliver a more emancipatory perspective on Irish identity than Parker’s Angelas Ashes.

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