Cal bernard mac laverty characters

While working there Cal has the opportunity to spend more time with Marcella and he falls in love with her. However we find out that Cal was involved in the IRA murder of her husband. So Cal is in love with the one person who he can never be with. Cal and Marcella spend more time together and they begin a love affair. The setting can be seen as an all-powerful force which shapes and controls the characters. It creates a violent, threatening and oppressive atmosphere which forces people into choosing sides and committing acts of violence.

Cal and Shamie live under constant threat because of their religion. They are the only Catholic family in a Protestant neighbourhood. Shamie is determined not to be forced out of his home but this leads to acts of violence. First Cal is attacked by some loyalist youths and then their house is set on fire. Shamie never recovers from this and it leads to him having a breakdown.

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Shamie can be seen as one of the many victims of the Troubles of Northern Ireland. We also learn that Cal is involved with the IRA. Cal is instinctively against the violence that blights his community but he is unable to escape it. Crilly and Skeffington force him to continue to help the IRA. It is clear that because Cal is a Catholic in Modern Northern Ireland, he has no choice but to follow a certain path and undergo suffering. The author thus faces the difficult task of asking the reader to sympathise with, and respond favourably towards, a member of the IRA.

To do this he shows us an individual with problems, and some endearing or redeeming qualities. Find four problems that Cal has, and four qualities. Problems Qualities 1. What motivates this character? What is your overall attitude towards Cal? How do you feel about him at the end of the novel?


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Also his isolation: he has no real friends or family to turn to, especially when his father breaks down at the end. That relationship is doomed to failure as he struggles with the burden of guilt and remorse for the death of her husband. He is tortured by guilt and remorse. Characters - Marcella Marcella's family comes from Italy. She is small, dark-haired and she has brown eyes. About five years before the beginning of the story, she married Robert Morton, a Protestant from Ulster. Marcella herself is a Catholic.

Since her husband was murdered by militant Catholics, Marcella lives with her little daughter Lucy in the farmhouse of her parentsin-law. She works in a library to get out of her boring life at home. She is discontent with her life because she feels alone with her thoughts and problems. Task: List as many reasons as you can to explain why a woman like Marcella would become involved with someone like Cal. You have to move away from your own home to be with your husband and leave your friends.

Later when you did get the opportunity the fire had gone out if it. He is reduced to a state of helplessness and despair. This is a strong contrast to the tough manly image he presents at the start of the novel. Think about their personality, behaviour and motivation. What is your attitude towards each of them? Cal felt it was aimed at them, the McCluskeys, because his father and he were the only Catholic family left in the whole estate.

That woman Marcella Morton has started in the library.

CAL by Bernard Mac Laverty

I see her every day. The trouble was he knew they would. It had been a chance encounter, fists and feet. Next time it would be clubs, pick-handles, knives or worse. To commune with her and be forgiven. Themes The novel explores many themes but the main ones are politics, violence, religion, suffering and, above all, guilt.

See a Problem?

The novel clearly shows the impossibility of trying to break free from this hatred. Cal is thus an isolated, lonely figure, alienated because of his religion. His is unable to accept the role expected of him by the IRA because he cannot accept the violence and suffering it inevitably leads to. He also cannot escape the guilt that he feels from his previous involvement with the IRA. His feelings of guilt and selfhatred lead him to seek forgiveness or salvation through his relationship with Marcella.

Shaking remnants of themselves. The tragic effect of the troubles on individual lives. Choose a scene from the novel which shows us the violent world in which the novel takes place. Describe what happens in the scene. Give reasons for your answer. Cal has a need for forgiveness. Why does brother kill brother? I do hope that Cal was read widely when it was written I do think it was and contributed in some small way to abating the fear, terror literal and figurative , and disgust still thick as smoke in the air when it was first published.

Pascal was famous for saying that all of mankind's problems can really be traced back to our inability to sit quietly in our rooms. True indeed, but we must also be careful what sitting quietly might summon, the dark side of solitude, as it were. It could be read as sarcastic fatalism: poor Cal is yet again going to be at the mercy of powers which have defined and dominated his life thus far and this arrest will be no more than a further humiliation among many others. It could be read as a final, pathetic defeat, suggesting that Cal is about to surrender totally, fatally, to this oppression to get rid of his misery and to stop struggling once and for all.

Neither of these answers seem sufficient, and for good reason.

A Time to Dance

Elimination at the hands of his tormenters is not what he deserves. It might be difficult to stomach, but Cal might be on his way to redemption. Cal has his faults but those very faults are entwined with his virtues and all-too-human characteristics. He is guilt-ridden to the point of stagnation, self-hating and constantly self-critical, most importantly he is not prone to acts of self- assertion or self-defense against the hostile world which he properly rejects.

All of this is, at least arguably, true of Cal. It is also important to remember, in contrast, that he is guilt-ridden and self-hating because of his conscience, not because he lacks one. Cal is in many ways an ordinary adolescent but what is plaguing him is far more immediate and dreadful than puberty alone. Part of being interested in the arts is the discovery of what one loves or hates, what one is passionate about, what one believes, what makes one truly happy. Exploring culture- be it music or literature or film- is a way to not only develop talents but also to begin a process of self-discovery.

Amid his alienation, Cal seems to find solace in music.


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This is significant because Cal is a character for whom social identity- religious, geographic, and economic- is very much at the heart of what is causing him so much pain and confusion. He is frightened for his safety as a Roman Catholic in a hostile, threatening Protestant Ulster, which is probably the reason his hometown appears in a worldly magazine in the first place. He is also bored out of his mind. In contrast to the pugilistic Crilly, killing and robbing does not seem to Cal like a good time at all, or even a possible escape route.

When he makes his trips to the library he borrows tapes, not books. Enter Marcella. Marcella represents to Cal not only a difference of gender being an adult female , culture an Italian emigrant to Ireland and his past her husband was, after all, the victim of the drive-by shooting in which Cal did the driving but not the shooting but also of his future. His interest in Marcella is described in voyeuristic terms from its beginning to its eventual consummation. Throughout much of the narrative he looks at Marcella but can hardly bear to touch her. When he manages to do so, in church of all places, it is furtive, ephemeral, a physical version of a glance.

Once they finally become lovers and begin to have a steady relationship, he is still burning with the guilt he understandably feels. It is significant that Marcella describes her previous marriage as a gradual process of indifference. Her husband became a stranger to her over time, their marriage gone distant, not what one would consider a love of any real intimacy. Cal, for his part, cannot truly be her lover until he purges himself of the secret which has imprisoned him in guilt all along.

If he was sick of himself, how would God react to him? For Christmas, Cal buys her a book of paintings by the German artist Grunewald which significantly contains a painting of a gaunt, suffering Christ on the cross. The image of the suffering Christ is appropriate for Cal in the sense that he is crucified by his social environment- his inherited Roman Catholicism is the root cause of his alienation and the threats within his social context. It offers the possibility of a recovery, an alternative to the solitude and self-hate which previously defined him.

Cal needs to escape the social shell imprisoning him. His otherwise repressed and distant father is still too traumatized from the attack to do much but stare out the window. Crilly and Skeffington have nothing to offer him but more anguish and violence and he has suffered enough by associating with them already. He knows, as he has always known, that he must do something conclusive to sever ties with them once and for all. It seems that the reciprocal affection which he finds in Marcella emboldens him, empowers him, it gives him something for which to live.

Now, he shrugs it off. Instead of letting his social environment dictate his reaction through tormenting him, he is beginning to fortify himself from letting it penetrate. The more he has to be excited about, the more he has to live for and the more he can become stronger within himself.

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When he discovers that Crilly has planted a bomb in the very library where Marcella works, he has had enough. He wanted to be open and honest with her and tell her everything. To explain how the events of his life were never what he wanted, how he seemed unable to influence what was going on around him. By consciously acting, by making an irrevocable decision, he has begun to define on whose terms he will live and define himself.

The bitter irony in the concluding paragraph is the irony which attaches to a social context which does not make for easy answers or greeting-card endings. The arrest, and the beating which follows, is an imprisonment but also, ironically, a liberation. It will serve as a purgation, a hand he forced on himself, the cathartic act through which the guilt and pain he feels will be beaten out of him at last.

There is also an irony in the fact that though he will have his catharsis through others, the situation has come to a head by his own hand. The fact is, however, Cal has gone from unwilling participant to conscious agent, makes all the difference in the world. He could not stay in the place he began, and it is now impossible to return to it- he can only go elsewhere.

He can only leave the shell. A beautifully sad story that makes us understand what it felt like to live in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. You can tell the author lives in Glasgow now haha. Sep 11, Ape rated it really liked it Shelves: ireland-and-n-ireland. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.

To view it, click here. This is such a heartbreakingly sad story, but so, so good. It's such a pleasure to pick up a book and think, this person really, really can write.


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I get the same thing from Kazuo Ishiguro for instance. I'd originally come across Cal because I like the film scores by Mark Knoffler and decided I'd give the book a go - although I've not actually seen the film version of Cal yet. Written in the early 80s, this is set in Northern Ireland during the troubles. He writes about these things going on rat This is such a heartbreakingly sad story, but so, so good. He writes about these things going on rather matter-of-fact, this is just a part of life.

I think that makes it all the more powerful, and tragic. The pure ridiculousness of it. Cal and his father are burned out of their home because they are the only Catholics living on a Protestant estate. I got the impression of Shamie, his father, who works in an abbatoire, being a big, tough fella who was quite down to earth, wouldn't let a thing like that bother him. And yet it breaks him, his depression gets too much and he has to be instituionalised.

I found that to be one of the saddest things in the book. There's also the bombs, the killings and revenge killings, the land mines that are a part of life, protestants and catholics being no better than one another. Cal is dragged into helping some IRA boys out, although he's not particularly passionate about the cause or getting involved. And once you're in you can't get out, so they keep coming back for small favours and little jobs to do. I can imagine that's how a lot of people get dragged into these things.

At the start of the tale, he's on the dole, unable to keep a job at the abbatoir because the smells make him sick - the IRA boy that's hassling him manages to work there no bother though, perhaps a little telling? She was married to a polcieman who was murdered by the IRA a year or so ago. She's a decade older than Cal, not that such things should necessarily matter, and gradually a love affair starts up.

And even this is doomed, you know, because Cal had been persauded into being the driver for the getaway vehicle for Marcella's husband's murder. Everything seems to be doomed before it even starts. Jun 29, Allan rated it really liked it. This is the second novel I've read by McLaverty, having already enjoyed his semi autobiographical 'The Anatomy School'. Set in a small town close to Magherafelt, it follows the life of unemployed Catholic 19 year old Cal, who lives as the last of his 'kind' in a Protestant housing estate with his father, Shamie, an abattoir worker.

From early in the novel, it becomes clear that Cal is involved on the fringes of the IRA but wants out, which isn't so easy, given the pressures put on him by ex scho This is the second novel I've read by McLaverty, having already enjoyed his semi autobiographical 'The Anatomy School'. From early in the novel, it becomes clear that Cal is involved on the fringes of the IRA but wants out, which isn't so easy, given the pressures put on him by ex schoolfriend Crilly and the older, manipulative Sheffington.

Things get more complicated when he visits the library and becomes aware of the new librarian, Marcella. This is on the one hand a dark, depressing book, but one that is extremely well written. It is successful in humanising some of the protagonists in conflict, while at the same time shows the ugly consequences and human cost of that conflict on the other. One can't help feeling sorry for Cal, while not believing that he is able to take the path he does throughout the novel. As it's such a short book, it's hard to write a summary without including spoilers, so I'll finish by saying that, while the book is well worth reading, and while I'll now be aiming to read more of McLaverty's novels and short story collections, have something on hand that's a bit more light hearted with a happy ending once you're done, because you'll not get that with this one!

Feb 05, Stephen McQuiggan rated it it was amazing. Cal's in love with the honey who works in the library. Cal has a problem. Cal drove the car for the gunman who murdered the honey's husband. A truly moving novel, set against a depressing backdrop I'm unfortunately all too familiar with, filled with genuinely poignant lyrical touches. It's the innocence of it all - even amid the abattoirs and senseless slayings - that really hits home; Cal's need to be forgiven or punished beyond redemption. One of the best books about the Troubles I've read. This novel poignantly addresses the complexity of being caught in cultural hubris.

Cal's struggle is one that preexisted him This one made me cry, and I don't do that often. If you gave this novel anything less than five stars, ask yourself: Do I have a heart? Just kidding Oct 16, Beth rated it it was amazing. This book is certainly an emotional undertaking. I read it for a Northern Ireland class, and I just flew through it. It's one of the best insights I've ever had into the possible mindset of an IRA member who doesn't quite have the stomach for it, but gets lost and tangled in everything he's done and everything he wishes he could do.

Jan 26, Gerry rated it it was amazing. This is a really wonderful story about an Irish Catholic, Cal, living in Belfast in the 70's. Cal becomes involved in a murder and falls in love with the wife of the man murdered. MacLaverty has really spun a fine tale here. Mar 18, Ariel rated it it was ok.

Although I liked the writing style, I felt this book was a sad tale of a man who's life was going nowhere. His guilt was all that he lived for. MacLaverty is a good writer, that's not the issue. The issues is that the book was nothing more than a sad story. Personal opinion, I guess. Feb 14, Lynn rated it it was ok. Thought it was a bit dull at moments. The ending got me really angry, because just as it starts to get interesting, he gets arrested and the book is done. The end. May 31, Nathalie rated it did not like it Shelves: war.

It misses true suspense and action. View all 3 comments. Feb 26, Melissa rated it really liked it Shelves: irish , fiction.

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It is a mighty book, right through to the last page. Feb 06, iHeartFantasy rated it did not like it Shelves: read Actual grade: 0 With no plot and bad insta-love, Cal was the most boring and meaningless book I've ever read. Jul 23, Ben rated it it was ok. Was made read it in school. I was really curious about this book because it has to do with the history of Ireland. I am really fund of that. The first impression I had was really good actually. I did not get the feeling that I was going to get bored reading this book. When Marcella was mentioned, I could not help but question why Cal got nervous.

However, I did not quite understand why Cal kept going to Skeffington and Crilly while he had mentioned that he did not want to join them anymore. What I did like is the connection Cal had with his dad. Even when Cal had decided to leave his dad for his own safety, he told his father to tell Crilly that he left without saying anything. Cal came back once a while to visit his father and was concerned about his health.

Meanwhile when Cal was living at Mrs. Even though I understood why he could not tell her, I wanted him to tell her because she had already mentioned that she was not that close with her husband before he died. However, he chose not to share it with her end ended up getting caught by the police anyway. I think the end of this book was very poor. I had more expectations because I got so caught up reading this book. Never did I drop the book. I kept reading until I had finished it. The pattern that stood out to me was religion. Protestants versus Catholics.

Cal and his father had received threats multiple times to leave their house. They were the only Catholics living there. They decided not to leave even after the threats but did not feel safe in their own house. Protestants decided to burn their house because they did not leave. Crilly and Skeffington kept talking about killing people to safe themselves because it was war.

It was not easy to find a safe place at that time but for Cal it was almost impossible to find a safe place because he was not only protecting himself from the Protestants, but also from Crilly and Skeffington. He could not stand their actions and wanted to stay far away from them. Coming to the end, I was very disappointed. Cal was making love to Marcella and was doubting if he should tell her about the death of her husband, then decided not to, and the next day the police showed up. To me the end of the book is very important therefore I give this book 4 stars.

Mar 10, Doreen rated it really liked it. I recently read Milkman by Anna Burns which is about an year-old girl growing up in Northern Ireland. This novella from is about a young man also living in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. Cal falls in love with Marcella, a young widow whose husband, a Protestant reserve policeman, was assassinated. He hopes for a relationship with the local librarian but he has secrets because of his un I recently read Milkman by Anna Burns which is about an year-old girl growing up in Northern Ireland.

He hopes for a relationship with the local librarian but he has secrets because of his unwilling involvement with the IRA. The book depicts what life is like in a conflict zone. Cal is a sensitive and thoughtful person who does not want to get involved but is pressured into being an accomplice for the IRA. It would be out of my hands. The effects on Shamie are equally devastating. The characterization of Cal is outstanding. He is a decent person who wants nothing to do with violence. Yet he cannot live the peaceful life he wants or be with the woman he wants because of the sectarian violence.

An atmosphere of sadness permeates the book. The relationship between Cal and Marcella is doomed because of the circumstances.