Families Portrayed In Roddy Doyle\'s Books


Why do we hear so much about family these days? Perhaps it is because
relationships between family members are assumed to be the prototype for all
other social relations. In the novels, The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van,
Roddy Doyle shows his support of the family as an institution. Each character
demonstrates strength and direction within the family unit. However, when the
stability of the family is threatened, each character breaks down along with the
family itself.

When we think of family life we associate happiness, a life of sharing
memories and developing unbreakable friendships. It is easy to create a family
that is make believe, we just tend to leave the ugly side of the relationship
out. It may be true that there is a family that lives like the "Cleavers" in
our society today, but speaking realistically every family will breakdown
eventually. In an interview about his novels the author said, "I didn\'t set out
to capture the good in every family, or bad for that matter, I just wanted to
show a typical Irish family."1 Doyle\'s writing is real--he deals with issues
that might not hit home with every reader however, they are events that
confront many people every day. The Rabbitte family is used in all three novels
that make up the "Barrytown Trilogy." While the times are both good and bad for
the eight members of this Irish family, in some way they find a way overcome
every problem that faces them.
One of Doyle\'s strengths is his feel for personality: his characters are
neither devils nor clowns, dolts nor wits, but wobble between the extremes.
"They\'re fish gutters and mechanics, young knockabouts and unemployed workers
who spend a lot of time watching T.V. drinking Guinness and jawing at the pub,
trying to stave off the feelings that they are nondescript people in a
nondescript world."2
The Commitments is Doyle\'s first full-length novel. The main character
Jimmy Rabbitte, the eldest son, puts together a band. It is almost every
teenager\'s dream, at some point, to be famous playing music in front of large
groups of people. In fact, this is how this book started off. In the end,
however, it turns out to be the complete opposite. Doyle captures the emotions
of his characters when they are weak and leaves an impact on the reader with his
humorous wit. He describes his writing as "a challenge that\'s the enjoyable
part. To an extent, that\'s what happened with all my books because I\'ve never
experienced any of the subjects I write about. I used to be a ten-year old boy,
but I certainly didn\'t watch my parents marriage disintegrate. I was never in a
band, I\'ve never been pregnant and I\'ve never been unemployed for a day in my
life."3 It is shown that Doyle has strong family values. In his writing he
clearly demonstrates that if one family member falls, it effects the rest of the
family. In The Commitments, throughout the entire novel, the band acts like a
family. As the manager, Jimmy plays the role of the father figure and trys to
keep the band reaching higher levels, together. But, as members begin to fight
Jimmy finds it more difficult to keep the group together.

"Now, said Jimmy-tell your Uncle Jimmy all about it.
-I just.
-Jimmy could see Billy thinking
It\'s just- I hate him, Jimmy. I hate him -- I can\'t even sleep at
nigh\'"4

The drummer, Billy\'s leaving was because of Deco, the lead singer of the
band who he couldn\'t face. Because they never talked, working out their problems
was never accomplished. The Commitments worked as a team to reach its success
but when the group was on the brink of acheiving stardom individual motives
began to cause problems. When the band stopped acting like a family unit the
fights broke out. "Somewhere in the quarter of an hour Jimmy had been
negotiating with Dave from Eejit Records, The Commitments had broken up." Jimmy
came to the conclusion that it was over. He moved on and kept his mind off the
band. Success had in fact destroyed the once harmonious group.

In The Snapper Doyle uses a interesting topic: pregnancy. Sharon, the
eldest Rabitte daughter accidentally gets pregnant. In the end, the father turns
out to be her own father\'s best friend. The beginning stage of her family
breaking down is when she finally confronts them about her being pregnant. While
the family accepts the fact that she is unmarried and pregnant, they have
several fights over the identity of the child\'s