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An EyeforAn Eye: Trollope's Warning for Future Relations between England and Ireland JillFelicity Durey Trollope wrote An EyeforAn Eye (1 879) as a Victorian melodrama to warn the English that their attitude to the Irish had to change. He loved Ireland and, although he was well aware ofits faults, he feared that England's intransigent and negligent attitude to its poor neighbour would result in a longterm campaign ofretributive anger. It is clear from An EyeforAn Eye that he saw Ireland being used as a kind ofmaidservant by England, who acted as its lord and master believing it had a droit du seigneur. The image ofIreland as England's mistress was not new. It had been invented in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Gaelic poems and repeated in many an Irish song, poem and cartoon, making "sexual exploitation a political metaphor" and Ireland a "woman-victim," "victimized by masculine England," as Robert Tracy notes in his introduction to The Macdermots ofBallycloran (1847 xv). The image had also been used or alluded to byTrollope in previous novels dealing with Ireland. In The Macdermots ofBallycloran, Feemy Macdermot, an Irish Roman Catholic, is seduced by Myles Ussher, a sub-inspector of police in the service of Britain. Her pregnancy angers her brother, and the novel's closing chapters describe the trial, verdict and execution of Thady, found guilty and executed for murdering Ussher (622). Aunty Lynch's Irish Roman Catholicism, Trollope stresses at the beginning of The Kellys andthe O'Kellys (1848), automatically places her in a subordinate and vulnerable position to any Protestant male, be he her brother Barry or her suitor Martin Kelly (22). And Trollope reinforces the political significance ofthese allusions in Phineas Finn (1869) in 26volume 32 number 2 An EyeforAn Eye his reference to the necessity of England giving Ireland the legal status ofwife, rather than "kept mistress," "ifit was incumbent on England to force upon Ireland the maintenance ofthe Union"(II, 180). The difference, however, between these novels and An EyeforAn Eye is in Trollope's underscoring ofmultiple acts ofrevenge stretching into infinity, should England's repressive dominion over Ireland continue. But the full significance ofAn EyeforAn Eye cannot be understood without considering the novel's title and textual origins. The novel poses as a simple love story gone wrong, but it is Trollope's way ofcautioning his country about its cavalier approach to Ireland. His warning cannot be discerned without a careful look at the Bible, the source material that Trollope used for An EyeforAn Eye. Critics so far have only cited in passing the chapter and verse in Exodus, from which the title derives, and have not stopped to consider its actual relevance to the work as a whole. Instead, the scant attention of critics towards this short novel has concentrated on Trollope's treatment of the perennial tug between love and duty. They have either ignored or dismissed its deeper significance on the political level (Sadleir 1927; Raven 1966; Fredman 1971; Edwards 1977; Tracy 1978; White 1983; Hynes 1987). John Hynes claims that it "is a simple tale ofpassionate revenge," and that Trollope "completely disentangled sociological and political occurrences from the realistic demands ofhis art" (54). John Sutherland has even introduced the work as one that has virtually no politics (viii)'. On the surface, this is true. The story concentrates on the failed love affair oftwo young people, a young Englishman about to inherit his uncle's estate and a beautiful, but poor, Roman Catholic Irish girl. But Trollope was always a deceptively straightforward writer. Never one to adopt obviously figurative language, Trollope has in this novel utilized metonym to convey his advice. Metonyms, in a way, are a form ofallegory, for their substantive nouns or characters bear additional significance, without openly admitting that to be the case. Writers who use metaphors openly acknowledge the links between literal and Victorian Review (2006)27 J. Durey figurative meanings; writers using metonyms maintain their silence about such links. Trollope knew, after his failure to publish The New ZeaUnder in his lifetime that his only effective means ofreaching the public's inner consciousness in serious matters was through his fiction. The Warden (1855) was written only a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 26-39
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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