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A shifty, unreliable narrator relays the story of his superiors in Maria Edgeworth’s controversial novel, which addresses the provocative subject of the Irish political crisis. Thady Quirk, a servant, narrates the lives of several generations of the Rackrent family, including the dissipated Sir Patrick, the litigious Sir Murtagh, and the bully, Sir Kit. Having spent his life on the Rackrent estate, Thady is well qualified to tell the family’s stories, which are filled with gambling problems, alcohol additions, and tumultuous conflicts. These include the clash between social classes: the extravagant Rackrents spend themselves into a deep debt and then impose burdensome taxes on their tenants. In his unmistakable Irish vernacular, Thady paints a satirical portrait of Ireland before the Revolution—but he may not be telling the whole truth. As it becomes increasingly clear that our narrator is withholding information from us, we wonder how loyal of a servant Thady really is. Is he a naive observer or a clever participant interested in manipulating the facts to his own advantage? The ambiguity embodied by Thady resonates with the major concerns of Edgeworth’s novel, including the conflict between Protestant and Catholic, English and Irish, and rich and poor.
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The story of the Edgeworth Family, if it were properly told, should be as long as the ARABIAN NIGHTS themselves; the thousand and one cheerful intelligent members of the circle, the amusing friends and relations, the charming surroundings, the cheerful hospitable home, all go to make up an almost ...Back to top
Ratings for 'Castle Rackrent' by Edgeworth, Maria