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Mantles, Quirks, and Irish Bulls Ironic Guise and Colonial Subjectivity in Maria Edgeworth's "Castle Rackrent"

Michael Neill
The Review of English Studies
New Series, Vol. 52, No. 205 (Feb., 2001), pp. 76-90
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3070491
Page Count: 15
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Mantles, Quirks, and Irish Bulls Ironic Guise and Colonial Subjectivity in Maria Edgeworth's "Castle Rackrent"
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Abstract

Criticism of Edgeworth's first novel has been divided over the crucial question of the reliability of its narrator, Thady Quirk. Until recently the dominant tendency has been to identify him as an essentially transparent character, a loyal retainer and naive admirer of the family whose 'honour' he endlessly professes to guard, and whose 'friendship' he so pathetically treasures. In such readings the novel's irony derives purely from the perceived gap between Thady's simplicity and the urbane sophistication of the implied author. More sceptical approaches, however, have seen Thady as a more or less conscious hypocrite, whose servile attitudinizing barely conceals his underlying scorn for the landlord class-let alone his ruthlessly self-interested behaviour. By decoding a number of Edgeworth's carefully laid hints-developed in part from her familiarity with early modern treatises on the native Irish-this article offers conclusive evidence that Thady's apparent naivety was contrived as a satiric trap for unwary readers, and one that, once sprung, has much to reveal about the novelist's understanding of colonized subjectivity.

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