.. , he wants to not deal with it, though, just like his parents, he doesn’t understand yet the consequences of holding it in. Katie, on the other hand, also does not understand the history of the family, but she deals with it in her own way by telling this story. She forces the narrator to begin dealing with this history when she goes “on” with telling the story. Through this story of haunting, the affects of two different authority figures becomes clear by how the narrator reacts to having to begin dealing with their past and how difficult it can be.
The authority of the narrator’s father is used by Deane to show the colonialization of the Irish people by the British government and the resultant effects of his trying to pass this down to his son in order forget their history and past. You ask me no more questions. Talk to me no more. Just stay out of my way and out of trouble. (Deane 110) Here, the father is representing the authority of the British government by exerting the force he has over the narrator through the parent-child relationship. “You” in this case is the narrator who symbolizes the Irish people, particularly the new generation who will be involved in the struggle. This is the same way the government acts with the Irish people, forcing them to “ask no more questions” thereby effectively forgetting their past.
The total authority over these people again is represented by the comment “just stay out of my way”. This shows the military force the British government has in order to force the Irish into submission. The father also represents the Irish people and their failure to deal with their history and past when he comments to the narrator to “ask no more questions”. “Questions” in this instance the history of the family that no one wants to deal with, which the narrator is forcing. Deane uses the father’s attempt to suppress the history of the family to illustrate the affects of the British government on the Irish people. After the narrator confronts his father about the family’s past, the result of the father’s suppression of the truth on the family when they sit down to eat.
“Everyone was sitting round the table, silent,” (Deane 110). “Everyone” represents the family, but moreover the Irish people. The “table” that they are sitting around is the country of Northern Ireland. These people live so close together in this nation yet they have been indoctrinated by the outside force of the British government to remain “silent”. By remaining silent about their past and history, he drives a wedge between the family, therefore illustrating how the silence divides the people.
Deane then uses Katie’s story to further strengthen and comment on what an outside authority, in this case the British government, has on another group, the Irish, in regards to making them forget their history and the consequences of forgetting the past. “Every day they would go to the field behind the house, where their parents were buried, and put flowers on the grave and sit there for a long time” (Deane 64). “They”, in this case, represent the Irish people and the grave of their parents embodies their history and past. The “flowers” that they place on the grave represents the remembrance of this past and the reflection on it. By visiting the grave “every day” and by “sitting there for a long time” the children, or rather the Irish people are reflecting on, dealing with and accepting their past. ..she wasn’t going to have them falling ill by doing so in such conditions, no more than their parents would want her to, or want them to insist on doing..
She found the boy was now dark-haired, as his sister had been, and the girl was fair-haired, as her brother had been. (Dean 64-65) In this story of haunting, Deane uses the character of Brigid to represent the British government. The children, whom again represent the Irish, are being told how to deal with their history by this outside authority by forcing them to not go to their parents grave. The “conditions” Deane is commenting on, is that of Britain’s control of the of the Irish in Northern Ireland. By not wanting the children to “fall ill”, Britain does not want the people to remember their past and history which would harm the control they have over the Irish in this region. Resistance would spread like an “illness” if the people remembered and dealt with their past. When the children start to change and switch between each other as a result of not being able to visit the grave, they effectively begin to forget their past.
The more they switch and change, their past history becomes more and more blurred as time passes. The use of this story illustrates how an outside authority attempts to manipulate a groups history for their own gains and what the consequences for not dealing with and forgetting the history are for this dominated group. The hauntings throughout Deane’s novel have a very distinct religious connotations which illustrates the control and authority of the church in the lives of the Irish Catholic people and how they affect the history of these people by making them again passive and submissive. We live, boys in a world that will pass away..Injustice, tyranny, freedom, national independence are realities that will fade too, for they are not ultimate realities, and the only life worth living is a life lived in the light of the ultimate. (Deane 26) Here, Deane illustrates how the Church keeps the people submissive and ignorant.
They try and want the people to forget the circumstances they are living in and stay focused on “the only life worth living” which is heaven. This is where the family gets their belief that the ghost of their history and past will in the words of the church, “will pass away” and “fade”. The church’s focus is to keep the peoples attention on heaven, to ignore the “realities” such as “injustice, tyranny, freedom, national independence”. These are things that affect the people daily which, if they remember their past, could cause upheaval in the area, therefore hurting the churches power in Northern Ireland. Deane continues on, in “Grandfather”, with showing why the Church has a vested interest for wanting the people to forget their situation and focus on something intangible, which is their power in the region would be at stake if the people remembered their history. I know there are some who believe that the poor man who committed that murder was justified, and that he will be forgiven by an all merciful God for what he did.
That may be..But it is true, too, of the policeman: he may have been as plagued by guilt as his own murderer.. (Deane 26). “I” represents the Church in this situation. They occupy the same intermediary position here as they do in region, playing both sides of the field between the Irish people and the British government. The “man” in this story represents the Irish Catholic people in the struggle and the “policeman”, the British government. The church in this instance is trying to negate the struggle and tension between the people and government by saying both felt “justified”.
They must play both sides off if they want to keep their position of power in the region. To side with one they run the risk of alienating either the people or the government. That is why they treat both sides of the “man” and “policeman” as the same and not different. By the end of the novel, the narrator illustrates the new generation of Irish Catholics who seek the truth about their history and in effect become the living ghosts who now haunt the authority in the region. “Why don’t you go away?” she asked me.
“Then maybe I could look after your father properly for once, without your eyes on me”. (Deane 235) The mother, who represents the old order of authority, now treats her own son as the ghost that haunted them. Just as she wanted the shadow to “go away” in the begin, she wishes the same of her son, who searched and discovered the hidden secrets of their history. “His eyes” are those of the new generation who dig up the past and make those who do not want to face the truth. He becomes that constant reminder of their history, just as the “shadow” was in the beginning.
Here “your father” and her being able to “look after” him illustrates the old order of authority in Northern Ireland that he, the new generation of Irish, interrupt. It is this new generation that are involved in the fighting for their freedom from the authority of the British government and Church, which the mother, father and the rest of their generation had been conditioned into passivity and ignorance by. Deane takes the theme of haunting and weaves it into his novel in order to reveal something much more complicated than merely the mystery of the history one family refuses to deal with. The family and their ghost reveal the intricacies of the Northern Irish society. These two things reveal the use of history by several different authorities to colonize and subjugate this people, by steering them away from the realities that truly affect them.
The simple truth of the what Deane illustrates is history and the past will not go away and they will always be present.