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The setting of the novel is in New York which is a diverse community with people from different class division, races and nationalities. Corrigan is placed amidst all the types of people in New York and undertakes the role of helping and playing guardian for them even for those who are not part of his faith. As a young man, the readers are introduced to a child who would sneak out at night just to be able to help and spend time with the drugs addicts, homeless and the prostitutes. After the death of his mother, he is compelled to leave Ireland due to his devotion to help those who are suffering and moves to New York following the 9/11 attack. Both his physical and spiritual labor are directed towards helping those in different types of difficulties. Corrigan finds excellence in difficulty and suffering of people through despair and trauma, McCann says, ‘So you force yourself into a position of difficulty, because it seems to me that we have forgotten… But there’s something really beautiful in the notion of difficulty.’
By being an Irish catholic, Corrigan has also been used a representation of the theme of religion. As a central personality in New York, his vocation has been used to show the act of redemption for the church even after going through many challenges and scandals. His religious role is used in the narrative to reconcile God and the reality of New York streets. As such, Corrigan is placed in a setting of the everyday life filled with tragedies and horrors in the streets of New York yet, he is expected to come out after defeating evil. As such, although he may go through darkness and end up bruised and damaged, the light at the end of the tunnel will make God more believable to the people he is interacting with. Religion and hope are themes which are intertwined in order to draw people closer to God. Corrigan gives hope to the people affected by different social evils
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