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Writing Modern Ireland$
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Catherine E Paul

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780989082693

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780989082693.001.0001

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date: 23 October 2017

Abroad and at Home: The Question of the Foreigner in Kate O’Brien’s Mary Lavelle

Abroad and at Home: The Question of the Foreigner in Kate O’Brien’s Mary Lavelle

Chapter:
(p.194) Abroad and at Home: The Question of the Foreigner in Kate O’Brien’s Mary Lavelle
Source:
Writing Modern Ireland
Author(s):

Wanda Balzano

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9780989082693.003.0014

This essay examines the place of the foreigner in Kate O'Brien's 1936 novel Mary Lavelle. More specifically, it considers how the notion of foreignness is embraced by the namesake protagonist, Mary Lavelle, a governess who appears to be a stranger to the home and to the language, both as non-native speaker of Spanish and as a speaker of English abroad. It explores how serving as a governess abroad (in this case, Spain) can offer an escape from the constraints placed on women in Ireland, while bringing with it the new identity of foreigner or exile. It also looks at the notion of love and hospitality when strangers meet, along with the communion of sexuality and death. It argues that queer sexualities add to the sense of social otherness that pervades Mary Lavelle, emphasizing the impossibility of permanent unions, the loss of boundaries, and the “familiar and uncanny pact of hospitality”—issues already at play for the foreigner.

Keywords:   foreigner, Kate O'Brien, Mary Lavelle, governess, stranger, love, hospitality, sexuality, death, social otherness

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