Brooklyn: Subverting and Challenging Genre Conventions 12th Grade

Brooklyn by Colm Toiblin tells the story of Irish immigrant Eilis Lacey’s journey to America during the 1950’s. The novel explores Eilis’s relationship with home as it shifts in correlation with her loyalties to those around her. The conventions of the novel allow for it to be read as a ‘hero’s journey’ story. Generically, this subgenre involved a protagonist (the hero) who reluctantly accepts a ‘call to adventure’ taking him out of his ordinary world. After crossing the first threshold, he encounters multiple tests, allies and enemies. Eventually, he finds himself at his lowest point where he faces the ‘supreme ordeal’. With the help of a mentor he ‘seizes the sword’ by picking himself up and is pursued on the road back to his own world where he returns transformed and admired by the members of the ordinary world. Although Brooklyn is close enough to conform to the Hero’s Journey subgenre, it does subvert generic conventions to a significant extent.

Brooklyn uses a sense of realism to create a ‘call to adventure’ driving the protagonist out of her ordinary world. Traditionally, texts under the hero’s journey subgenre would involve a male protagonist leaving his home to face a mythical external danger. Set in the 1950’s,...

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