Comparative Essay On Books; CAL by Bernard Mac Laverty & Educating Rita by Willy Russell
The book CAL is titled after the protagonist in the book, Cal. Cal is an Irish young man, born and bought up in Ulster. Cal loses his mother at the tender age of 8 and lives with his father throughout the storyline of the book. Cal is born into a Catholic family. However, at the time of his birth and his upbringing, Ulster is predominantly a protestant town. A lot of animosity exists between the protestants and the catholics at the time.
The book covers a number of themes such as murder, religion, violence, love, guilt, hatred, among others. Isolation is a major theme in this book. Cal lives an isolated life from his childhood and his surroundings adds to his misery. Cal is isolated from all aspects that define his life. First, he loses his mother at the tender age of eight. Losing his mother has a devastating effect on him considering that his mother always treated him with the utmost regard. He subsequently lives a lonely life with his father. After his mother’s death, Cal is only able to think of himself in a bad light. He loses his self esteem and hates his life. He feels alone and unwanted in the world.
Secondly, he is born in Ulster, a northern Irish town that is predominantly protestant while his family are Catholics. Being catholic sets an air of rejection throughout the life of Cal. It adds to his sense of inferiority. Later on in the story, their house is burnt down by protestants. He is forced to secretly live in the Mortons’ farm in an abandoned building. He spends his life alone in the house until he is discovered by the Mortons. However, out of pity, they let him stay in the derelict building.
His involvement with the IRA and criminal activities contributes to his lonely life. At first, he is a sympathizer of the IRA. However, after their violent acts lose his admiration. He contemplates leaving the group but cannot do so as he would be labeled a traitor. He drives getaway cars for the IRA in their criminal activities. In one of their missions, he drives Crilly, his friend from a murder mission of a protestant. Driving the car in this particular instant haunts him for the rest of his life.
The second book, educating Rita by Willy Russell is a play whose setting is in England and talks of a young woman named Rita. However, she later changes her name to Susan. Rita is a hairdresser and uneducated. She lives in a routine life that is filled with dishonesty and superficial pretensions. She plans to escape the boring daily routines and her present life by signing up to an open university to receive an education. She takes an English course in literature at the institution. It is at the university where she meets Frank, a man she would later fall in love with. The first meeting between Rita and Frank has a profound effect on both. Frank is impressed by Rita’s desire to better herself and bring positive change to her life. Interacting with Rita changes Frank’s life as he is influenced to re-examine his attitude towards life.
Just as in Cal by Maclaverty, educating Rita is also predominant with the theme of isolation among other themes. Rita, in her present life, feels alone and bored with the daily routines of her life. She is tired of the dishonesty she experiences and the superficiality in her life and work as a hairdresser. She seeks to escape that life by enrolling in the university to take on a course in English literature. One of the main reasons for joining the university was to escape her lonely life and to be part of an institution with so many activities and people who lived a lifestyle that she admired. She also felt alone due to her little education. Her earnest nature and quest to better her life impressed her tutor, Frank.
Frank, a tutor at the university, also faces a lonely life. He despises the pretensions of the university culture. He drinks a lot and took the university job so that he could have the means to pay for his drink. He is impressed by Rita’s quest to change her surroundings and to better her life. He re-examines his life as well and tries to lead a positive life. Rita, on her part, is filled with more self confidence as she seeks to fully integrate into the university life and be part of the educated class. Her lonely life in her past life is a big factor in her attitude towards life. It is the driving factor motivating her to make a positive change in her life and to embrace a new culture.
Their lonely lives bring them together. Their quest to escape from their lives is the common thing between them and that leads to the blossoming relationship between the two. However, as Rita integrates with other people in the university and picks up the culture, Frank notices a behavioral change in Rita. He notices the same university cultures pretenses that he despised. His bitterness with life and cynicism returns at this point. It appears that Rita’s quest to better her life and to escape her lonely and isolated life pushes her into the glamorous bohemian lifestyle. However, she bitterly finds out that her new lifestyle is also filled with the same dishonesty and superficiality that she had sought to escape from her past life. She is left disillusioned. The book ends on a high, though, as Frank, sent on a sabbatical, welcomes the possibility of making a real change in his life.
Clearly, there are a lot of similarities between the two books. The main similarity between the two books is on the main theme of isolation. In the first book, Cal, he lives a lonely life despite the fact that he has his father. The feeling of loneliness is caused by the death of his mother at an early age. Thereafter, he is bullied into joining the IRA by his friend, Crilly. Joining the IRA is not a decision that Cal enjoys, but rather an arrangement borne of necessity. He feels alone in the world. Joining the IRA gives Cal a sense of belonging to a world otherwise filled with loneliness to Cal. He participates in criminal activities while in the IRA, actions he clearly loathes and cannot bring to forgive himself over. After being arrested and tortured for his involvement in the IRA, he gladly welcomes the punishment he receives. He feels that it is a punishment worthy of his crimes and wrong actions while he was involved with the IRA. Similarly, Rita, while at the University joins a clique of girls that she wants to emulate. It turns out the group only serves to remind Rita of her past. Out of loneliness and Isolation, joining the learned people in the University and emulating their lifestyle seems to be the solution to escape her past. It turns out to be the wrong decision as her character is changed to reflect the very same principles she escapes from from her past life.
The two books also reveal several differences. While Cal joins the IRA and participates in actions that she loathes, Rita joins the clique of university girls willingly and loves her new environment. Secondly, Cal is forced by circumstances to participate in criminal activities. On the other hand, Rita is involved in actions that she does willingly. Rita embraces her new environment with earnest and eagerness while Cal seems to be imprisoned by circumstances from an early age. Cal also hates himself and does not feel worthy of the presence of Marcella. The feeling of unworthiness is born out of the life he lives after the death of his mother and the work that his father does. On the other hand, Rita, does not show similar emotions. She does not like her environment and she takes active steps to change them. Cal shows dissimilarities in that regard, as she seems to accept his situation and does not take necessary actions to change his environment. He fears that leaving the IRA will only result in him being labeled a traitor. He stays put.
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