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What does Roddy Doyle tell us about growing up in 1960s Ireland

Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clark Ha Ha Ha concentrates on the life of a 10-year-old boy named Paddy Clarke who lives in Barrytown, Ireland. Right the way through the novel, Roddy Doyle illustrates not only how Paddy Clarke’s Irish surroundings have influenced his childhood, but also the ways in which American and English influences have played their parts in his upbringing.Since Paddy Clarke is living in Barrytown, the reader can’t stereotype the small town to make out what growing up in Ireland was like. This is due to the fact that Barrytown is clearly a fabricated town and it, like all towns, cannot describe the whole country. Also, Barrytown isn’t described as a city but a small town, which only has “twenty-seven dogs,” as Paddy Clarke points out, to show the reader the minuteness of the town. However, although Barrytown is a fabricated, rural town, Roddy Doyle cleverly manages to deal with the fact that Ireland is fully portrayed because the story is told by Paddy Clarke, who is only 10 years of age and thus the reader doesn’t expect an intellectual outlook on growing up in 1960s Ireland.Religion very much affected Paddy Clarke’s upbringing. Ireland, a Catholic country in the 1960s, had more of a religious identity than it does today. Roddy Doyle illustrates this point several times and demonstrates how this influenced Paddy Clarke’s childhood. Paddy has a fairly immature approach to religion perhaps because it is forced upon him by his parents but also because of his young age. He says, “We went to heaven unless we went to hell.” Although he is fairly humorous in this quote, he says “We went…” and not “I went” which implies the fact that most people were of the Catholic faith. Paddy Clarke’s immaturity is further portrayed when he asks Father Moloney, “Do you have to live by yourself” “Can your ma not live with you?” What would be seen as an irrelevant question to most people, Paddy Clarke sees it as a serious and important matter. It could be argued that most children would ask such obvious questions but because Paddy is living in Ireland at a time when religion played an important part in daily life, he should have known the basics about Catholic priests by the age of ten.Being Catholic in 1960s Ireland was very important and most people were. Paddy Clarke reflects this in his speech. He says, “He was a Protestant, a proddy, and he was older than us.” Being a Protestant was seen as out of the ordinary and hence the mere mentioning of Alan Baxter being a Protestant by 10 year old shows that Roddy Doyle was trying to emphasise this point.An important part of growing up was the strong sense of Irish history and a feeling of patriotism. An example of this in Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha is when Paddy is told about the Easter Rising of 1916. This represents some of the cultural context in this novel.”In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called”, proclaimed Miss Watkins on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The teacher, Miss Watkins, feels patriotic about the event and wants the boys of her class to feel the same way. Here Roddy Doyle may be suggesting that in 1960s Ireland children were brought up with a strong sense of ‘Irishness’ and the Irish generally felt passionate about the Easter Rising as it is related to their national identity and their independence.The need for the proclamation from Miss Watkins illustrates the very strong love of their country. The quote that Miss Watkins reads is from the Proclamation of 1916 and thus, although she doesn’t tell the children to sacrifice themselves for the sake of Ireland, she feels it is important to read out the quote and remind the children of the pride they should have of their country and of being Irish. This further shows that growing up in Ireland meant that you were expected to be proud of your country, its history and your ethnicity.Paddy doesn’t see the importance of the event and enjoys the event because it is something different to what they do everyday in school. He says, “Miss Watkins started clapping, so we did as well. We started laughing. She stared at us and we stopped but we kept clapping.” Hence, Paddy is clapping because his teacher does and does not see the significance of the event like his teacher does but rather finds the event quite amusing. . This strong feeling of patriotism was clearly an important part of growing up because it was taught to children and the teacher is very strict about it and punishes Paddy for making a joke out of it. Paddy says, “She gave me three on each hand”.In 1960s Ireland, children were also influenced by American culture. Roddy Doyle suggests that music was one of the American influences. Paddy’s father listens to a singer called Hank Williams and Paddy takes pleasure in listening to these songs. He says, “I liked the next bit though. – THEN I JUMPED INTO THE RIVER…”In addition to music, American figures were considered childhood heroes in Ireland. An example of this is the Native American Geronimo. “He was the last of renegade Apaches. The last of the renegades.” Paddy continues to say, “Hennessey sometimes called us renegades before he hit us.” Moreover, regarding the Native Americans, Paddy says, “I liked the Indians. I like their weapons.” Hence, this shows that the Indians were quite popular with 1960s Irish schoolchildren. The quotes also show, that growing up in Ireland meant that beating children was permissible for teachers.Due to the proximity of England to Ireland, and the similarities in culture, English influences are present in Paddy’s life. Paddy is devoted to reading “Just William”. He states, “I read William. I read all of them. There were thirty-four of them.” An example of the simplicity in Paddy’s writing can be found in the above quote. All three sentences are very short, uncomplicated and the sentences can be easily identified as being written by a 10 year old.Another English influence on Irish schoolchildren was that of football. Paddy Clarke and many of his friends in school supported Manchester United, a famous English football team. Paddy says, “Four of us followed Manchester United” and “Ivan McEvay followed Leeds.”Interestingly, although Paddy Clarke and his friends support Manchester United, their childhood football hero is Irish. Paddy says, “We all wanted to be George Best.” George Best was a famous Irish footballer in the 1960s known for his sporting abilities. As the quote by Paddy suggests, Irish schoolchildren held a high position for George Best. Thus, Roddy Doyle emphasises that both Irish and English schoolchildren followed English football clubs, perhaps because there were more football clubs in England than in Ireland, but the Irish had their own football legends who they admired and didn’t need English heroes. Here again, the simplicity of Paddy’s writing is demonstrated by the above quotes.The language used in ‘Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha’ is not too complicated and immature when compared to Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ and Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’. The language used hardly consists of conjunctions to link ideas and phrases and instead full stops are used. Of course, the uncomplicated writing in ‘Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha’ is written in this manner intentionally because Roddy Dolye aimed to write the novel from the viewpoint and narration of a 10-year-old Irish schoolboy.Roddy Doyle describes the unusual format of the novel as the ‘meandering style of the novel’. Paddy focuses on one event and in the middle of the topic he strays to another subject before returning to the topic later on in the novel. This can be viewed as a representation of the spoken abilities of a child.Whenever the topic that Paddy is talking about meets another topic, Paddy deviates from the former topic because he finds the latter topic more interesting to talk about. A self-evident example can be given when Paddy diverts from talking about his father to talking about winning a medal for coming second in a racing event. Paddy says, “Sometimes, I didn’t believe that that was the only reason for not being able to go near him, for the way he got into his corner and wouldn’t come out. Sometimes, he was just being mean. I won a medal. I came second in the hundred yards except it wasn’t nearly a hundred yards; it wasn’t even fifty.”Many differences in language can be seen in the novel. For example, the word that is used to describe a misbehaving child is the word “messer”. This is not an English word and a 1960s Irish colloquial word. Gaelic also influenced the Irish language but it was not commonly understood and spoken by 1960s schoolchildren.The analysis of Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha points to the conclusion that Roddy Doyle informs the reader of many aspects of growing up in 1960s Ireland to include the cultural, religious and historical aspects; in addition to the numerous influences shaping the lives of those growing up in 1960s such as American and English influences. Moreover, the Irish and non-Irish influences on Paddy suggest that it was rather confusing to grow up in 1960s Ireland. The reason for this, as Roddy Doyle suggests, is that in the 1960s, many external influences were coming into Ireland and thus the Irish culture was developing rapidly and children such as Paddy Clarke were growing up in a time where these cultures met and thus were between the two cultures.

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