|Marilyn Holguin||Uris, Leon: Trinity|
|Assignment 1: Bibliographic Description|
|1. First Edition Publication Information||Leon Uris Trinity Garden City, NY Doubleday, 1976
London: Deutsch, 1976
Franklin Center, PA Franklin Library, 1976 The First Edition Society
Barcelona, Bruguera, 1976 Spanish
München; Kindler 1976 German
Source: National Union Catalog, Volume 124
|2. First Edition in Cloth, Paper, or Both?||First edition was published in 1976 in cloth, leather (for a special book club edition), and eventually in paperback later that year though not simultaneously with the hardback editions|
|3. Image of Cover Art||A13191060216001642.jpg|
|4. Pagination||383 leaves, pp. [1-4] 5-81 [82-86] 87-206 [207-210] 211-279 [280-284] 285-405 [406-410] 411-523 [524-528] 529-637 [638-642] 643-751 
Source: First Edition of Trinity
|5. Edited and/or Introduced?||This book was not edited or introduced. It was, however, dedicated to
Uris's wife. Uris also thanks the many who aided him along the way.“This book is dedicated to/ my wife, Jill/ who is as much a part of these pages/ as the Irish people (written in caps with a typewriter-esque typography)
“I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to my associate, Diane Eagle, whose research and devotion constituted a tremendous contribution, and to the Denver Public Library.
There are others, tens of dozens, whose interviews and expertise made this work possible. Sheer weight of numbers precludes my thanking them all. Unfortunately, some of these cannot or do not wish to be acknowledged, for the story of Ireland goes on. Those who did help me know who they are and have my everlasting gratitude.” (written in italics)
Source: First Edition of Trinity
|6. Illustrated?||6. Maps are illustrated by Herbert Tauss; end pages include maps of Ireland before and after the year 1922; maps of more specific/fictional locations appear on pages [2-3], [84-85], [208-209], [282-283], [408-409], [526-527], and [640-641]
Sources: National Union Catalog, Volume 124 and First Edition of Trinity
|7. Sample Illustration||A17191060216001642.jpg|
|8. General Appearance||The typography of this novel would best be defined as pax. It is easy to read, with neither overly large nor overly small typeface. The margins measure 1.5 cm/2 cm and the overall size is measured at 22 cm./15 cm/ 6 cm.
Sources: www.identifont.com and first edition of Trinity
|9. Image of Sample Chapter Page||A19191060216001642.jpg|
|10. Description of Paper||10. The paper has a cream color rather than white but the pages have not yellowed at all. It is difficult to tell whether the book began as a stark white or intended for an off white, just as it is difficult to discern whether there are deckle edges or straight. I would argue the book has a slightly deckled-edged pages and was originally slightly off-white in paper color as to create a certain age to the book, in keeping with the timeline which is beings from the late 19th century to early 20th century.|
|11. Description of Binding||11. Green (emerald, of course) cloth covers the hard boards with gold stamped lettering on the binding which indicate author, title, and publisher. There are water marks on front and back covers and fading to the lettering. Though not technically part of this copy of the first edition, the dustcover of the Book club edition takes on the colors of Ireland’s flag, a little flashy and certainly suggesting a political agenda.|
|12. Title Page Transcription||Front: Leon Uris/TRINITY/Doubleday & Publishing, Inc./Garden City, New York/
Back: A limited edition of this book has been privately printed./ISBN: 0-385-03458-x/Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-14844/
Copyright ©1976 by Leon Uris/All Rights Reserved/Printed in the United States of America/First Edition
Source: First Edition of Trinity
|13. Image of Title Page||A113191060216001642.jpg|
|14. Manuscript Holdings||Harry Ranson Humanities Research Center University of Texas, at Austin
Leon Uris, 1924-2003
169 boxes, 43 oversize boxes, 6 galley folders (108 linear feet)
“Most of the works are represented by numerous typescript drafts and research material. Novel and screenplay drafts for Trinity are particularly well-represented, although the order of creation for the numerous, and frequently incomplete, drafts is difficult to ascertain. In many cases, correspondence, excerpts, page proofs, galleys, promotional material, and reviews are also present. There is a substantial amount of research for Uris's works on Ireland in Series II. General Research Material. Additional reviews for works published through 1991 are found in Uris's scrapbooks in Series IV. Posters are present for Ari, QB VII, and Trinity.”
|Assignment 2: Publication History|
|1. Other Editions:||A special book club edition was published along with the standard first edition by Doubleday, Garden City, New York in 1976.
|4. First Edition printings or impressions?||9th printing November 29 1976
11th printing 1977
|5. Editions from other publishers?||Deutsch Publishing 1976
Avon Paperback Publishing 2006
Corgi Adult 1977
Doubleday became Bantam Doubleday Dell in 1998 and became a division of Random House in 1998
|6. Last date in print?||2006 Mass Market Paperback English language edition pages:912 Harper Collins Publisher date:7-25-2006|
|7. Total copies sold?||April 26, 1976: new printing of 25,000 ordered taking total to 175,000 (Publisher's Weekly)
May 24 1976: After a fourth printing there are 175,000 copies in print (PW)
Nov. 29, 1976-320,00 copies in print (Publisher’s Weekly)
April 11, 1977-370,000 copies in print reported by the publisher (PW)
Nov. 29 1976-320,00 copies in print Publisher’s Weekly
Bowker Annual also consulted, confirming amount copies in 1976.
|8. Sales by year?||unknown
|9. Advertising copy:||Publisher’s Weekly provided a spread devoted to hard cover Harper Collins novels, including Trinity.
|11. Other promotion?||Publisher’s Weekly interview v209 n13 p 6 March 29 1976
"Leon Uris Meets the Press" George D. Kane The Washington Post 1976 Proquest
"Uris: Irish here must 'do more" Maggie Daly Chicago Tribune 8 December 1976 Proquest
"Book Covers: Novel Twists Sell the Story" Robert E. Dallos Los Angeles Times 6 April 1976 ProQuest
"Getting to know the Nobel winners from northern ireland" Jonathan Harsch Christian Science Monitor 27 December 1977 ProQuest
|12. Performances in other media?||Though rumored to be turned into a film, Trinity has yet to become one, also workshopped by Leon Uris for Broadway though no evidence to support whether it became an actual play.
Kathleen Shine Cain
Clines Francis X. New York TImes ProQuest
|13. Translations?||Spanish-Trinidad, Barcelona Bruguera 1976
German, Munchen Kindler 1976
|14. Serialization?||First serial appears in Ladies Home Journal selection lit. guild paperback Bantam March 5 v 93 n3 p114
|15. Sequels or Prequels?||Sequel-Redemption Harper Collins New York 1995|
|Assignment 3: Brief Biography|
|(For the extensive biographical overview of Leon Uris please see Exodus)
Leon Uris died of heart failure June 21, 2003, at the age of 78, at his home on Shelter Island, New York. Among other writers speaking about Uris, Guardian writer Eric Homberger says, “He was, in truth, an educator of the American public in the Zionist interpretation of modern Jewish history. The deep tradition of non-violence in Jewish tradition was swept aside in his muscular reinterpretation of the modern Jewish identity. Many other cultural stereotypes--the learned Jew, the pious Jew, and the streetwise Jew as entrepreneur--were similarly dismissed” (Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004). In an interview after his death, Jill Uris (who though divorced from Leon, remained a close friend) recalls how Leon lived hard and played hard; “He had a passion for life, so he had a very full life and a lot of activity, lots of friends around the world and great parties and good times. And I would say he grabbed life and led it to the fullest” (ProQuest).
Uris may not have written Trinity if not for the influence of his third and final wife, Jill Uris (maiden name, Peabody). As a photographer, she explored the political problems in Ireland through the lens and collaborated with Uris in Ireland: A Terrible Beauty, with Uris handling the text and she the photographs (New York: Doubleday, 1975). The research and heavy travel through Ireland inspired Leon to delve even deeper into the past of Ireland’s current issues. In an interview on Trinity’s sequel, Redemption, Uris emphasizes his love of research. “The key to both novels was research, Uris said. “Most people are staggered by research, but this is, after all, how I make a living,” he said. “The first thing you have to do is get immersed in the project, organizing yourself, knowing what you are going after and not going after. It is extremely important to know what you don't want to find. Research to me is as important or more important than the writing. It is the foundation upon which the book is built.” I have a sense of duty toward history, not to distort it and to keep within the framework of the basic truth” (Journal Exchange Company 2002). In that same interview, Uris was asked why he picked Ireland as a source of historical fiction. He said that was on the look out for something he never did write about, and followed his wife, Jill, to Ireland, what she called in a letter, the “golden place.” “ ‘That was the trigger that became Trinity,’ he said” (Journal Exchange Co. 2002). This interview also explains the reason behind the Larkin name in the novel, prompted by the interviewer’s name, Thomas Larkin; “ ‘I lived in San Francisco, just off Larkin Street. James Larkin, for whom the street is named, was a labor organizer in Ireland and San Francisco. I loved the name, so I used it,’ Uris said” (Journal Exchange Co. 2002).
In an interview with Jill Uris, Leon Uris’s dedication to research is again illustrated. When asked by interviewer, Michael Norris about Uris’s craft and work ethic, Jill responded with, “He was very disciplined. He was a tireless researcher and put tremendous effort into that, traveling, interviewing and reading profusely. And when it came to the actual writing, he was a twilight writer, I used to say. And he'd do mostly his research and organizing from about noon until 4, and then he'd do the writing usually about 4 to 8 at night” (ProQuest). As quoted in a Washington Post obituary by Adam Bernstein, Uris's advice to writers was simple. "Apply the seat of one's pants to the seat of the chair and write, " he once said. "There is no other way” (Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004).
Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2004
Journal Exchange Co. 2002
ProQuest Information and Learning Company, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Content and Programming copyright © 2003 National Public Radio, Inc.
| The reviews on Trinity are not quite as polarized in opinion as many novels often are, mainly because the critics tend to agree on the distinction that 1. Leon Uris is a great storyteller but that 2. He is not such a great writer. Pete Hamill, from the New York Times, explains the differentiation: “Leon Uris is a storyteller…story is all, the form it takes is secondary…Uris is certainly not as good a writer as Pynchon or Barthelme or Nabokov; but he is a better storyteller.” Likewise, William C. Woods of The Washington Post applauds Uris’s “storytelling power” and how he “instructs as he entertains,” which he notes is “an honorable tradition” finding its roots in Charles Dickens but also calling to mind how “it’s certainly the least artistically interesting form the contemporary novel can take.” And, interestingly enough, what unites a majority of the reviewers is their tendency to binarize storytelling and writing with the former being understood as fun, interesting, maybe even educational and the latter being labeled as serious, artistic, and, well, better. “Uris is writing for the gallery, and he clearly wants everyone to understand what he is saying”; “…Uris, like most writers little interested in words, uses a great many of them…Along with the work of James A. Michener, Uris’s writing has long held the high ground in and odd area of American fiction—clearly inferior to the accomplishments of most serious novelists, as it is clearly superior to the candied junk of Robbins and Susann”; “Be it admitted, he keeps his story sturdily self-perpetuating without interrupting its continuity so much as having to change the ribbon in his typewriter” (New York Times, The Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews).
Leon Uris’s grammar and sentence structure (or lack there of) are major issues for the critics. His writing is described as “wooden,” “sloppy,” “unnatural,” “stiff,” and, finally, as the word that encapsulates all those descriptions, “raw” (NYT, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor). Uris is given his due for the amount of rigorous research that went into writing the novel but often with a critique towards his dependence on historical anecdotes and his own political biases; “Incorporating generous quotations from historical materials…,” “With his usual partisan magnanimity, Uris devotes himself to another popular/unpopular lost cause, the Irish,” “Uris is clearly on the side of the Irish” (Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, New York Times). The two reviews that read Uris’s political biases very differently are Woods (Washington Post) and Christopher Hudson (Chicago Tribune). Hudson, who probably wrote the most negative of reviews, (“No doubt Trinity will get the window displays on St. Patrick’s Day. But those of Irish blood who like their stories to be told with grace and sensitivity will do well to pass by on the other side”) finds Uris to be “historically prejudiced” and finds the writer’s only “authentic Irishness” in being so anti-British. Hudson criticizes Uris for making the situation between the “saintly Catholics” and the “selfish Protestants” (Hudson’s words not Uris’s) too black and white: “The British are behind every handling and flogging, every blackened potato, every dead workhouse child, every cloud of industrial smog between Belfast and the sun” (Chicago Tribune). Contrasting Hudson’s review, Woods finds that very partiality to be “a measure of Leon Uris’s seriousness of purpose” but notes how “Uris’s partisan devotion to the republican cause has wholly triumphed over any historical impartiality he might have looked for…To be sure, novelists aren’t required to give multiple sides of a story, but a novel like this one…comes up a bit lopsided…” (The Washington Post).
The consensus of the critics might be that information dominates the presentation in Trinity, where characters are “embodiments of the social forces around them, rather than human beings in their own right” and which ultimately “begs for the blue pencil” (Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times). Several critics mocked Uris’s use of the word zeal and more than one scoffed at the inauthentic Irish vernacular, “spackled with innumerable ‘Jaysuses’ and ‘Hail Marys’’ (Kirkus). The Saturday Evening Post notes how, despite maintaining stock characters like “the poet” and “the fearless fighter.” Uris tackled a difficult project and “has drawn a detailed picture of that beautiful green isle…He has done it with sympathy and skill.”
Tarbet Gary C. and Barbara Beach, eds. Book Review Index Volume 7: T-Z, 1965-1984
“Trinity” Pete Hamill New York Times March 14, 1976 Proquest
“Uris’s ‘Trinity’: Another blockbuster of a novel Diana Rowan Christian Science Monitor April 21, 1976 ProQuest
“Fighting Irish” William C. Woods The Washington Post 7-25-76 ProQuest
“Uris: Irish here must ‘do more’’ Maggie Daly Chicago Tribune 12-8-76 ProQuest
“Ireland 1885-1915: Uris Insists on Present-Day Parallels” Christopher Hudson Chicago Tribune 3-7-1976 ProQuest
“Leon Uris Embraces the Irish Soul in ‘Trinity” George D. Kane Los Angeles Times 4-11-76 ProQuest
“Uris Tries to Explain Irish to Themselves” Richard G. Hubler Los Angeles Times 7-476 ProQuest
Woolf, Alice E, ed. Kirkus Reviews Volume 44. January, 1976 p30.
Booklist Volume 72 March 1976 American Library Association pg 960
Saturday Evening Post Volume 248 p73 September 1976 Ann McGlinn
|Richard Tuerk makes a sweeping overview of Uris’s writing that notes many of the contemporary critics'opinions on Trinity, and I’ll quote it all, since it’s so well put: “Uris has been criticized for careless use of grammar and sentence structure, shallow characterization, superficiality of theme, lack of attention to details of plot, using cliché-ridden language, and injecting gratuitous sexual scenes into his work. In fact, reviews of his works sometimes degenerate into lists of his many faults. One critic even went so far as to say about Uris: ‘He has for the first time brought off genuine trash about Jews.’ Obviously, these words are an exaggeration. Still, Uris's strong story lines help his works stay extremely popular. To put it simply, his works are fun to read; readers want to find out what happens next. Apparently completely untouched by postmodernism, Uris uses straightforward chronological narrative along with numerous flashbacks to keep his stories moving rapidly. Reviewers often note his use of cinematic techniques such as fade-ins and fade-outs and theorize that he has movie versions in mind as he writes his books. His tales demand that his readers willingly suspend their disbelief as they get caught up in the adventures of his central figures. His novels tend to be fast paced, full of action, and extremely exciting. Consequently, he will probably continue to be extremely popular at the same time that he will continue to be scorned by literary critics” (Brown).
Kathleen Shine Cain’s Critical Companion to Leon Uris goes into a detailed play-by-play of Trinity and, though she does agree that “the major characters in Trinity are mythical in stature, larger than life,” she only sees some of the women, such as Seamus’s mother Mairead, as stereotypical, and ironically refuses to actually critique Leon Uris, even though the title (Critical Companion)suggests otherwise, and instead chooses to summarize the novel at great length rather than bring any new insight to it (143 and146). Francis X. Clines overviews Irishness in mass media, film, and fiction in her article "Ireland with and without Blarney" and refers to Trinity's affect on Chris O'Neill.
Richard Tuerk, "Leon Uris: Overview" in Contemporary Novelists, 6th ed., edited by Susan Windisch Brown, St. James Press, 1996.
Cain, Kathleen Shine. Leon Uris: A Critical Companion. Greenwood Press, 1998.
Clines, Francis X. "Ireland with and without the Blarney" New York Times 1992 ProQuest
|One could write Trinity’s success off as the inevitable effects of a novel riding the waves made by previously lucrative books. But Trinity’s predecessors (Exodus especially) are merely one of the reasons the “novel of Ireland” sold so well and stayed so long on the bestsellers list. Leon Uris created a story that appealed to the political ideologies of 1970’s America, while maintaining a focus on the historical particularities of late 19th/early 20th century Northern Ireland, thereby linking the present and the past in one broad stroke. The largeness of scope, coupled with the obvious yoking of present and past, was problematic for critics but essential for making this novel a bestseller. Trinity was a blockbuster, coming out in the decade that defined what that concept really meant in film and literature in terms of how the epic proportions of the story equaled the enormous financial expectations.
The blockbuster has been criticized as a result of the “big-company, big book trend in publishing” and critics certainly tend to place Uris in the group of novelists ridiculed for the structural aspects of writing: “When editors at hardcover houses are looked upon more as acquirers than as editors, the sheer demands of the acquiring process have obliged many of them to devote far less time than ever before to the actual literary, or even the grammatical, details of the authors’ manuscripts” (Whiteside 99-100). Whatever Uris might lack in language and cohesive transitions, he did create what people wanted to read in the 1970’s ( and, given the number of reprints, what people still want to read in 2006).
One of the main questions for novels like Trinity is whether the ideology manipulates the economic intake or if that goal for money shapes the ideology to fit its own purposes. This question is fueled by John Sutherland’s book, Bestsellers: Popular Fiction of the 1970’s, in which he notes the two functions of the bestseller: “The first is economic. It exists to sell the best and make money for its producers and merchandisers. The second, more flexible function is ideological. The bestseller expresses and feeds certain needs in the reading public. It consolidates prejudice, provides comfort, is therapy, offers vicarious rewards or stimulus” (34). There is no speculation over whether Trinity made money or fed a certain need to the public, it certainly did. The question is which ideology did Uris feed to the public?
Uris makes a clear argument for liberty and personal freedom throughout Trinity. He uses the Irish as a prime example of the oppressed and the British as those who attempt to deny their rights as human beings. Uris is quoted as saying: “The Irish Catholic…is the guy who came to Britain and said ‘I want justice.’ The British said ‘You cant have it.’ Well, Britain owns the rules. How does the oppressed people fight against the rule-makers? The revolutionaries make their own rules because they have been put outside of polite society by society. Politically, the Northern Irish are less than zero. They can’t play by the British rules” (Kane). Uris’s personal politics and perspective are as unapologetic as the grandiose epic he sets them in. His leftist ideology matches the form and, even more importantly, lines up with what it means to be a blockbuster.
In order to be a blockbuster, there must be a wide appeal to a mass audience. The mass audience, the audience that remains marketable, is predominantly American. Uris writes an American epic, using Ireland to promote American ideals. Uris writes good guys and bad guys with no apologies and little gray area. He makes his heroines beautiful and his protagonist handsome and strong, but allows for flaws and human weaknesses, so that his readers both revere and relate to the characters. Ultimately, Uris writes an Irish western, an international glorification of an American icon: “…Trinity take[s] the familiar ‘making of a nation’ theme. It is mainly an American subject matter, America being the country which has been most spectacularly made in recent history. But the mode is transferable. As Uris puts it: ‘You can write westerns in any part of the world’ ” (Sutherland 203).
John Moeller demonstrates that, despite many critics desire to dispel the stereotypes of the genre, the western is often labeled by three characteristics: “(1)locale—from Texas to Canada between Missouri and the Rockies, (2) time—from 1865 to around the turn of the century and (3) the use of the West as not merely a backdrop but in fact a ‘generating force’ (Yanarella 20). Trinity holds that third item close to its pages, the essence of the western rides through Uris’s Irish countryside and streams through the souls of the characters. James K. Folsom sheds light on how the western finds itself within many other genres, such as science fiction, but loses currency when not combined as a hybrid, largely due to its politically incorrectness and formulaic nature: “Most other genres of popular fiction are assumed to be more profound, at least in implication, than their writers are in performance” (Folsom 15). By mixing genres, Uris ties up the loose ends of the western genre, those that are “unreal” or too “escapist,” by drawing on the historical facts to balance the romance and emotions of the western with the politics of historical hindsight (Folsom 16).
One of the first aspects of the novel that strikes a western chord, finds itself in how the author over-explains the meaning of the book. Just as a western follows a certain formula, so does Trinity follow the guidelines set by Uris. Trinity maintains one clear mantra from the beginning of his novel to the last line of the epilogue: Eugene O’Neil’s phrase, “There is no present or future—only the past happening over and over again—now.” Uris provides structural variations on this line throughout the chapters, most obviously at the end of the novel (“For, you see, in Ireland there is no future, only the past happening over and over”) but never enough to suggest a change in the meaning (751). For instance, in an emotional tirade on the troubles of Ireland, Conor Larkin alludes to O’Neil’s line: “There’s a curse on me as there’s a curse on the Larkin name. The curse comes back, again, and again, to taunt me! Ronan! Kilty! Tomas! And now me! What are the Irish among men?...Will there ever be an end to our tears? (375). The cyclical nature of Ireland’s problems is made more obvious by situating it within the binaries of family and the individual, religion and politics, and, of course, the Irish and the British. The novel’s theme is spelled out for the reader, underlined throughout the chapters as to make no mistake on the links between the events of the novel and the present troubles in Northern Ireland.
Uris depends largely on historical facts to structure the novel’s fictional path in tandem with the actual timeline of events between the 1840’s and 1916. The characters are swept within the confines of the times they live in, the country they inhabit, the religions they practice, and the families to whom they are bound. The contemporary readers, of course, know that Northern Ireland still bursts with issues in the 1970’s. Uris speaks to the ongoing disputes in an interview with The Washington Post: “The British are willing to give up their rights to govern. Ulster is a financial liability to them. They have created a mongoloid baby. Once it was cute. Now it is an embarrassment. But there will never be peace there. The Protestant mind will never accept that anything be given to the Catholics” (Kane). Uris’s strong prejudices against Protestants and the British has been said to bleed into the text itself. Though the Protestants in the novel are often depicted as villains, Uris does manage to cover his bases by creating characters who are sympathetic while being Protestant, and, inversely creating Catholics who are anything but heroic.
One of the more unfair complaints from the reviews of Trinity, revolves around the way Uris depicts the Catholics as “poor but saintly” (Hudson). Most of the Catholics are far from being saints. Conor’s father, Tomas, carries many interesting and contradicting qualities that make him quite dynamic. His attitudes are often exasperating because his intentions are so good though his sensitivity is so lacking. The guilt he places on Conor to work the land, rather than go to school, is not rooted in Catholicism but in a desire to pass on all that he has to his favorite son. There is also a sense of self-preservation surfacing in Tomas’s understanding of his relationship with Conor; Conor symbolizes Tomas’s immortality.
If Conor lives, then Tomas cannot truly die. But when Tomas realizes, on his deathbed, that Conor will never work the land, he seeks absolution from the Church, saying he owes it to his neighbors and friends: “If I can show them that I’ve seen God, then I’ll leave them a legacy, something to hang onto…I cant leave them all alone without hope…”(Uris 346). Tomas recognizes the need for hope despite going from “despair to despair” in the never-ending fight of life (Uris 346). Catholicism acts as a social need for Tomas, rather than a spiritual one. Because he detaches from the Church, he ruins his relationship with his wife and cuts himself off from his children. Even though it might seem easier for him to simply attend mass and go through the motions of being a good Catholic, he cannot fake a belief or a respect for the corrupt Father Lynch: “Ah, Father, you are a blister” (Uris 45). He cant live with being Catholic but he can die as one, so his friends and family’s memory of him wont be tainted with thoughts of his soul burning in Hell.
The key model for the multi-dimensional Protestant character is clearly Caroline Hubble. Caroline is introduced as a spoiled, beautiful, worldly, rich, shrew of a woman, to whom her soon-to-be-husband, Roger, has no desire to tame: “I don’t fancy playing Baptista to your Katherine” (Uris 192). Though she locks herself into a marriage that seals her position on the political board game, Caroline acquires sympathy for the Catholics; first, towards Conor, and then to Molly O’Rafferty. Caroline respects Conor as an artist and admires him as a man: “He was a finely put together man…yet his brawn was modified by the stack of drawings under his arm. He was so utterly Irish with his cocked cap and sweet talk but so terrifyingly knowledgeable” (Uris 361). Likewise, Conor cannot help but like Caroline, even though she stands for everything he detests about imperialism: “As his own prejudices of Larkin for Hubble tempered, he admitted to himself he liked the way Lady Caroline held her arms out wide to her family as well as her relationship with her husband” (Uris 369).
The glimpses of Caroline’s humanity are fully realized when she fights her husband for her son, Jeremy, to marry the woman he loves, a Catholic girl, Molly O’Rafferty, (who also happens to be pregnant with his baby): “And Molly! That precious girl! She’ll be condemned like a common whore, all but burned at the stake as a witch”(660). Ironically, the moment of Caroline’s greatest sympathy is also the moment Jeremy decides to take his fortune and title over a life of poverty with Molly: “Any notion of running off with her became totally squashed by visions of muddy alleys and peeling rooms. With all his tugging and hauling with his father, he liked being Jeremy Hubble, Viscount Coleraine” (Uris 668). The theme of the past repeating into the present finds itself in the Hubble family just as much as in the Larkin’s. The Protestants and the Catholics are both victims to the traditions and customs they adhere to.
Despite the preordained sentencing on the characters’ various fates, many of them project a great amount of agency. The agency, however, is an act in futility, since just as a hero will undoubtedly die in the tragedy, Conor is attached to Ireland, knowing he will eventually die for his country. The narrator, on the other hand, gives the reader a certain amount of hope; after all, how can Seamus tell the story if he hasn’t lived through it? Later in this essay, we will find that Uris does not adhere to that notion, in fact, he grants no hope for Ireland, only a constant resurgence of the country’s miseries.
The relationship between the narrator, Seamus, and Conor clearly suggests an American subtext beneath the Irish veneer. Seamus begins his narration recalling the eleven-year old admiration of Conor, his “idol,” and his tendency to follow Conor and ape his mannerisms: I’m going to the bog with Conor,’ I said, bolting behind him”(Uris 7). Seamus dies for Ireland, because he “drew the short straw...as usual” and must protect the wire to blow up the castle, but he also dies for following Conor, for needing to be the commentary, the journalistic voice through all Conor’s adventures (735). The hero needs a sidekick, and just as the Lone Ranger relies on Tonto to “go to town” so does Conor have Seamus, the “runt,” man the castle (Uris 747). Conor envies Seamus’s cultivated education as much as Seamus admires Conor’s raw intellect. Conor needs Seamus to teach all that he knows, until the eventual tutelage by Mr. Ingram: “He waited for me everyday at the crossroad and while things were still fresh in my mind we would…go over the day’s work” (Uris 233). Even though Conor is the obvious leader, he still depends on Seamus for affirmation, guidance, and strength. The two men would be equals but for the name Larkin.
Though Conor and Seamus want to stay together and attend the national school, Tomas cuts the bond, making it clear that while Seamus may need school to get ahead in life, all Conor needs is to work Larkin land. When Conor points out how the Larkins and the “O’Neills always do things together,” Tomas responds with: “It’s not like cooring up a pair of horses to make a plow team…The O’Neills are in a different situation. Your hands are needed by me” (Uris 228). Conor’s heritage makes him the hero. Seamus is arguably as brave and heroic as his friend, but his family tree does not compare to the men that proceeded Conor.
Uris makes Conor a predestined hero, following in the wake of Rowan, Kilty, and Tomas. The novel begins with the death of Kilty and ends with the death of Conor. Even though Seamus was the primary narrator, he does not narrate his own death in the castle. Critics have cited the narrator as one of the major flaws with the novel; sometimes Seamus narrates, sometimes not, and the other narrator that takes over for Seamus comes in like an understudy, taking away an essential voice, and a certain realism that Seamus gives the novel. Through Seamus’s eyes we can believe that Conor is larger than life, it’s simple hero-worship.
With the shift to the other narrator, in scenes Seamus could not possibly have witnessed, the reader must wonder who is giving the information. The second narrator is not omniscient (though, he may seem so, since he knows an incredible amount of history) but looks over Conor’s shoulder, and over the shoulders of other characters as well, allowing the reader to know more than the characters. The narrator jumps from one perspective to another, never knowing more than the person he is following, and as soon as he leaves that character to join another, he provides new information but does not connect the past to what is presently at hand. This second narrator, then, is not unlike Seamus in how he follows the characters, as Seamus follows Conor, seeing what they do in private but not necessarily knowing their innermost thoughts. The second narrator serves an even greater metaphysical purpose in illustrating how the Irish people live interwoven lives never noticing their own similarities, making the same mistakes over and over but not finding the connections that might remedy so many of their problems.
Published in 1976, Trinity will forever remain shelved between two other major blockbuster hits, and though films, they seem the best compliments to the novel in their shared affiliation with the western genre. 1975’s Jaws and 1977’s Star Wars would be nothing without the escapist, romantic, and American nature of their western roots. Jaws tells the story of three different men, (a trinity of men if you will) coming together to fight a common enemy while Star Wars creates the same good vs. evil dichotomy that Uris’s novel depends on. All these stories are larger than life, unbelievable, but close to America’s heart. It might appear strange to later generations that Jaws united such a wide audience, just as it may seem odd that so many people went out to buy a book about the tragedies of Northern Ireland. But it’s not such a strange trend when one examines the ideologies of the American public. Fear runs rampant throughout America and people would rather have a shared enemy than an unknown terrorist: “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t” (Uris 278) Americans want their cowboys to go out and take care of business because, as long as the cowboys keep fighting the bad guys, the townspeople can keep their hopes for a better world as they nestle into their houses, and cozy up with a good book.
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