Christie Culp – Discussion section questions for Eng 570
9 April 2009

The troubled waters of Irish memories

As Roseanne Clear starts to open up to Dr. Grene, she likes his company, but not the probing questions. She tells him on page 186 that she doesn’t like holy people, “priests, and nuns, and such”, because they are “so certain about things, and I am not”. Although Dr. Grene seems the more believable of the two storytellers, Roseanne starts to question her own memories, leaving the reader to wonder if she is credible. On page 201, she admits there are “memories in my head that are curious even to me”, memories that may be suffering from neglect. She denies her father’s involvement as a police constable, despite evidence to the contrary (pages 110, 136) She knows the reason for her admittance to the “Leitrim Hotel”, but does not reveal this to Dr. Grene (page 100). Is Roseanne presented as an unreliable narrator, or is she just withholding information, protecting her frail self by means of selective memories? Fr. Gaunt also gives detailed documentations, but his veracity is questioned by Dr. Grene. Is the author illustrating an example of how differing recollections of events, albeit truthful to the person remembering, can lead to such enmities between Catholics and Presbyterians (Protestants) in The Secret Scripture? As Roseanne discovers that her missing husband has left her and “Tom has put the matter in Fr. Gaunt’s hands, Roseanne” (page 214)…her emotional reaction signal the beginnings of a psychological break for her. Up to this point in the novel, Fr. Gaunt has been allowed tremendous influence and power in the lives of his citizens. Is Sebastian Barry giving an indictment of the Catholic Church, or something else? At several places in the novel, there are phrases that are repeated, possibly for narrative effect. To give an example, on page 206-207 “What do you want, Roseanne”? “What’s going on with you”? Also on page 208 “You won’t starve” is repeated. Do these repetitions signal a warning of something to come?

Tanya J. Thomas
Stephan Flores
English 570
April 9, 2009
Queen Maeve
Pages 186-216

In this section there are multiple references to Irish folklore. Roseanne begins her climb up Knocknarea to meet John Lavelle by picking up a stone to carry up and drop at the cairn (186), a tradition considered to be good luck. When she hears her name in the wind she says that, “Now the old childhood fear got a hold of me, as if I might be hearing a voice from the next world, as if the banshee herself might be sitting atop the cairn with her last strands of dusty hair and her hollow cheeks, wanting to add me to the underworld” (189). After this she has her conversation with John Lavelle, which appears to have devastating consequences. What significance do Knocknarea and Queen Maeve have in this story? How does Roseanne relate to the ancient warrior queen? (188-189) What is significant about her meeting John Lavelle on the supposed burial site of the fierce woman of Irish legend?