Edna O’Brien The Country Girls (1960): Deconstructing the Irish Women’s Myth
Keywords: feminism, Irish identity, patriarchy, The Country Girls, women
The rigid cultural and political environment of the 1940s post-independence era in Ireland placed a significant limitation on women by socially constructing and consistently implementing a strictly-defined Irish Catholic female identity. Over time, women could no longer stand this situation, and movements for women’s rights were set up. Political, social as well as cultural transformations in the country were accompanied by a necessarily urgent literary reaction, especially by female writers. Edna O’Brien, one of the most loved, and influential Irish women writers, published her first novel, The Country Girls (1960). She helped open discussion of the role of women and sex in Irish society and of Roman Catholicism’s persecution upon women. The present paper intends to focus on Irish women through The Country Girls. It explores the conflicts and compromises of Irish woman identity as this has been represented in the 20th-century Irish literature; concerning the more generalized categories of society, nation, and religion.