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Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man Essay (Article)


Locating the Movie Identify: More American than Irish

Considering The quiet man , a movie, which is more American, than it is Irish, even though the film narrates about Irish people, MacKillop obviously has a point. Instead of focusing on capturing the essence of the Irish culture and interpreting it with the help of the means that cinematography has to offer, the director resorted to the traditional tropes, therefore, reducing the film to a bunch of clichés tied together. The strength of the movie comes from its characters rather than from the setting or the accuracy of the representation of the Irish culture, which MacKillop proves in a very graphic manner.

When analyzing the movie, one must bear in mind that it would be wrong to judge the film solely on its own merits – though the movie obviously holds its value as an art piece, it must also be analyzed as an adaptation of Walsh’s novel (MacKillop 173). Herein the key problem with the movie lies – unlike in Walsh’s story, the lead character in the movie is American, though with an obvious Irish heritage. By providing the character with a new identity, the director changed the movie radically, creating an entirely new atmosphere and depriving the original story of its Irish spirit.

Another crucial alteration, which the novel suffered when being turned into the script, concerned the evolution of the main character: “Unlike the Quiet Man of Walsh’s story who is too reticent to ask for the dowry, Sean Thornton refuses to accept the importance of a strange tradition” (MacKillop, 1999, p. 175). Finally, the changes that were made to another important character, Thornton’s wife, can be considered the final step towards the Americanization of the story. Ellen Roe in the original story, she is turned into Mary Kate. Surprisingly enough, her character is very bland.

Irish Stereotypes in the Movie: Cementing the Commonly Accepted Image

Much to the credit of the movie director, the movie does not fall for the traditional tropes and can be considered quite original for the year that it was released in. While following the traditional pattern of a romantic comedy, the film still offers the viewer a lot of food for thoughts. Nevertheless, The quiet man admittedly incorporates a range of stereotypes concerning Irish people and the Irish culture; viewed through the prism of the American culture, the interpretation of the Irish traditions turns into blowing the traditional image of an Irish person and their life out of proportions.

First and most obvious, the movie did not escape creating its own interpretation of the Irish Alcoholic trope: Michaleen Oge, played by Barry Fitzgerald, is never seen sober throughout the entire movie; and, given the running time of the comedy (129 minutes), that is saying a lot.

In addition, the setting must be listed. Even though Ireland already featured a significant progress in the process of urbanization along with the rest of the United Kingdom, the director preferred to focus on the countryside as the man setting for the story to unwrap in. The use of the specified setting as the basic foil for the characters to evolve on cannot be considered a flaw, however; it could be argued that the very idea for the Irish comedy would have seemed alien to the hostile urban setting as compared to the inviting country landscape.

Though the mentioning of the next stereotype represented in the movie can be seen as a nitpick, the very fact that the director has resorted to the use of the specified trope still will make the modern audience cringe. In the course of the movie, one of the old men uses an ear trumpet; the very trope is traditionally associated with the Irish people for some reason, which makes the movie even more stereotypical than it already is.

The stereotype that must have become out of date the very day that it was acted out in a movie, the introduction of such a character as a tough reverend may seem a rather obnoxious element of the movie to the people, who are fed up with Ireland related stereotypes. Though this bias is not as offensive as the drinking man trope, it still forces a specific image on the Irish people and, therefore, can be seen as harmful. Creating the character that has little to no personality outside of being “tough” can be interpreted as a plea for attention, which is hardly the image that Irish people would like to be represented by.

Finally, the boisterous brute, Red Will Danaher, needs to be included into the list – or, to be more exact, to top it. Of all the commonly accepted images of the Irish people, the one of the man, who willingly and consistently searches for conflicts, must be the most harmful one. It represents a distasteful and improper image of the Irish people to the rest of the cultures, thus, shaping a false picture of the Irish culture: “He’ll regret it till his dying day, if ever he lives that long” (Ford, 1952), says Red Will about one of the characters, who were unlucky enough to cross his road, and, therefore, makes the viewers get the wrong idea about Irish people in general. After all, it is important to bear in mind that, in the realm of the 21st century globalism, conflict solving seems to have become the major concern, which is why the image of a person, who is consciously searching for one, will not be considered acceptable. Seeing that the movie was released several decades ago, however, as well as that the movie is, in fact, a comedy, the effects of the introduction of the above-mentioned stereotypes can be seen as rather mild.

This, therefore, invites the question whether movies such as The quiet man should be viewed as offensive to the people, whose culture is being viewed from the position of ignorance and prejudice, should be frowned upon. On the one hand, culture, nationality or race related biases have never led to anything but misconceptions and conflicts. For people to be able to accept other cultures and communicate with their representatives properly, cultural sensitivity must be cultivated in them. Movies like The quiet man, in their turn, reinforce these stereotypes instead of subverting them; as a result the clichés remain the key to understanding another culture, which triggers even more confusion. On the other hand, it should be kept in mind that The quiet man is a comedy and, therefore, the ideas that it communicates directly should be taken with a grain of salt. It gives the audience different options for understanding the Irish culture, and leaves the choice to the viewers.

Reference List

Ford, J. (1952). The quiet man. [DVD]. Hollywood, CA: Republic Pictures.

MacKillop, J. (1999). Contemporary Irish cinema: From The Quiet Man to Dancing at Lughnasa. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 16). Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/irish-culture-and-stereotypes-in-the-quiet-man/

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"Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man." IvyPanda, 16 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/irish-culture-and-stereotypes-in-the-quiet-man/.

1. IvyPanda. "Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man." June 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/irish-culture-and-stereotypes-in-the-quiet-man/.


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IvyPanda. "Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man." June 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/irish-culture-and-stereotypes-in-the-quiet-man/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man." June 16, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/irish-culture-and-stereotypes-in-the-quiet-man/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Irish Culture and Stereotypes in The Quiet Man'. 16 June.

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