Chapter Seven - The End of Father History: Amongst Women (1990) 223
Chapter Seven The End of Father History: Amongst Women (1990) With the publication of That They May Face the Rising Sun and Memoir it is now possible to get a clearer sense of how Amongst Women fits into the progress of McGahern’s writing life and the overall shape of his oeuvre. The great achievement of the novel is McGahern’s successful shaping of his abiding themes and deeply personal preoccupations into a fiction that main- tains its autobiographical core within a vivid carapace of accurate regional topography and documentary realism. In The Pornographer he constructed a narrator-protagonist who is, paradoxically, both a more complex and yet freer version of his previous autobiographical narrator-protagonists. There is an even greater sublimation of the recollective self in Amongst Women, a novel which returns to the family history of the first three novels in order to bring it to its conclusion, and which appears to silence the expected autobiographical narrator-protagonist in the character of Luke, whom the author places in ‘self-exile’ in London, distant and militantly uncom- municative, in order to allow Moran and his women to possess the stage.1 Luke’s ‘separateness’ from the family (AW, 144) and his refusal to return to Great Meadow signify McGahern’s own refusal to return to the passions he had tapped in The Dark. It would be a mistake, however, to confuse tonal objectivity with moral neutrality and to overlook the element of judgment that attends McGahern’s exploration of individual character and collec- tive ethos in this novel. Eamon...
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