Three cheers for the Descendancy! Middle-class Dreams and (Dis)illusions in Mary Manning’s 'Happy Family' (1934)
Oxford : Peter Lang
Reimaging Ireland ; 87
InHoulihan, B. (ed.), Navigating Ireland’s Theatre Archive. Theory, Practice, Performance, pp. 141-157
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Engelse en Amerikaanse Letterkunde en Cultuur
Houlihan, B. (ed.), Navigating Ireland’s Theatre Archive. Theory, Practice, Performance
In her unpublished second play, Happy Family (1934), which has survived as a typescript in the Dublin Gate Theatre Archive at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL), Mary Manning depicts the trials and tribulations of the middle-class Blake family and their blinkered attempts to retain their place on the social ladder of the Irish Free State. However, despite the ostensible frivolousness of the Blakes’s misfortunes, Happy Family can be read as a vituperative representation of middle-class life in the Free State that resonates beyond the immediate setting of its satire. By explicitly problematizing the ubiquitous issues of class conflict and family loyalty in post-independence Ireland, Manning dissects the rigid social stratification of the young state, revealing an intricate web of paradoxical communal ties that are deeply rooted in Irish history. No less importantly, the play’s examination of the Free State’s social geography exposes major disparities between urban and rural Ireland that likewise betray a conflicted awareness of the nation’s insurrectionary history as well as a convoluted mode of Irish temporality that belies the Blakes’s – and, by extension, Ireland’s – conformist ambitions and even prefigures the advent of the Second World War.
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