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Looking beyond the Irish Famine in OFlahertys Going to Exile - Essay Example

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The setting in Liam O’Flaherty’s story entitled “Going to Exile” happened during the potato famine in the 1800s. Because of the difficulties brought about by the famine, Feeney family’s two eldest children are forced to leave Ireland to seek work in the United States…
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Looking beyond the Irish Famine in OFlahertys Going to Exile
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Download file to see previous pages According to Social Education (2000), the problems with the Irish potato crop were first reported in the Dublin Evening Post on September 9, 1845. During this time, the previously healthy green fields of potato plants turned black because potatoes were rotting underground.
At first, the cause of the crop failure was unknown. It was later revealed that the blight was the result of a fungus known as Phytophethora infestans, which probably arrived in Europe from North America. There had been similar potato crop failures on the east coast of the United States in 1842 and 1843. The blight spread quickly through Holland and Belgium, arriving in Ireland in 1845, when it destroyed 30% of the potato crop. In 1846, 1848, and 1849, nearly the entire potato crop failed. Although the blight did not strike in 1847, people starved because they had eaten any unspoiled “seed potatoes” during the terrible winter of 1846-47. The British government decided not to provide replacement seed potatoes in 1847.The first official government response to the potato blight was to estimate damage to the crop. Police reported crop losses weekly. Experts also investigated the situation and suggested possible “remedies”, which were wishful thinking. At first, British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel purchased American Indian corn to help feed the hungry, and he set up small-scale public work relief projects. Later, the government and private charities set up food kitchens where they distributed soup, but such efforts were quickly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem. The situation for the Irish worsened when Peel and his supporters were replaced by a new government headed by Lord John Russell. Like most leading British thinkers and government officials at that time, he believed in laissez-faire economics. This theory held that government involvement in the economy (like aid to the hungry) would only increase problems like scarcity in the long run. Laissez-faire is a French phrase that means "leave it alone"; in other words, let market forces determine supply and price, with no government help or intervention. Thus, the British exported grain and livestock from Ireland to England (to pay for rent, tithing, and taxes) while the Irish people were dying from hunger and famine-related diseases. There was also strong sentiment in England that Ireland was responsible for its own troubles and that local resources had to be used for relief ("A Brief History of the Potato in Ireland", 2000).
As a result of the errors of the British Colonial Policies, the Feeney family had to make a choice to counteract the effect that the potato famine. Amidst the farewell party, however, the family masked to some degree the distress of the parents, who do not want their children to leave even though the parents realize that the departure of their children is a financial necessity. The father retreated to the barn for a time to hide his feelings, while the mother, to keep from crying, immerses herself in serving food and similar party necessities:
The people were dancing, laughing and singing with a certain forced and boisterous gaiety that failed to hide from them the real cause of their being there, dancing, singing and laughing. For the dance was on account of Patrick Feeney's two children, Mary and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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