John McGahern: The Barracks

(932 words)

The Barracks portrays the last years in the life of Elizabeth Reegan, the middle-aged wife of a police sergeant in a small, unnamed Irish village during the middle decades of the last century. The narrative traces the progress of her breast cancer from her initial, intuited awareness of it, through her diagnosis and treatment in a Dublin hospital, to her final, pain-filled days at home, where she dies childless, surrounded by her step-children. Her acute consciousness of her physical decline is accompanied by a deep metaphysical anguish that stems from her inability to locate her suffering in anything other than a terrifyingly bleak existential frame. An oppressive sense of her own insignificance assails her at every turn, …

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Harte, Liam. "The Barracks". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 March 2001
[, accessed 04 July 2015.]