The First-Born Child in Irish American Literature

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It is very interesting that so many literary pieces of Irish heritage share the similar trait of suffering, particularly among thefirst-born child in a large family. Mary Doyle Curran's 1948 novel surveying the progression of a depression era Irish-American family entitled The Parish and the Hill displays two obvious cases of this attribute in Irish culture.Mame, the mother of the books narrator, and her son Eddie were both treated as more of a parent figure to their siblings than as an actual brother or sister.They were protectors and providers when the parents were not.These are similar to the conditions found in the 1996 autobiographical book by Frank McCourt entitled Angela's Ashes.The author and main character, is given the responsibilities of a full time babysitter in looking after his younger siblings and his mother.Later in his years he turned to violence and alcoholism, which is an understandable result of a life without a real childhood.Mame, Frank, and Eddie were all thefirst-born children in Irish Catholic households who dealt with their burdensome family role in different ways.
Mame O'Sullivan was raised in a large family and had seven brothers who were all veterans of the First World War.The O'Sullivan brothers were typical Irish stereotypes that liked to drink and fight all night, every night.After thefirst of the month, payday, they would always come over to their sister's house drinking beer, singing and promising not to be back that night.Later however, the police would arrest them and take them back to Mame's house regardless of the promises they made.She would take care of them, make sure they went to sleep and did not get put in jail.Sometimes, she would even go to bars to bring them home herself in order to avoid the visit from the Paddy Wagon (Curran 118).The most interesting point of all however, is that she did not care what the neighbors thought o…