In the novel “Lamb” by Bernard Mac Laverty, written in 1976, I cannot but feel sympathetic towards the main character Brother Sebastian (Michael Lamb). I feel that he was a victim of circumstances. He was brought up in a farm in Ballycastle where he was taught by his father to put animals who were suffering out of their misery. In the novel Mac Laverty describes how his father “had pulled chickens necks so fast and expertly that they never felt a thing”. To Sebastian Owen Kane was just like an animal with no future and the most humane thing to do was put him out of his misery.
Throughout this novel there is a recurring theme of a father and son relationship. The killing was ritualistic as Sebastian’s religious beliefs would have meant that he believed that the boy was going to eternal happiness with God in heaven. “It was motivated by love. It would be a pure. Of this he was sure”. From the much protected environment with his mother and father on the farm he entered the Irish Christian Brothers the year he was due to leave school which would have been about sixteen.
In the Brotherhood he had no real adult life as he was restricted by the vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. When the novel opens Sebastian is a wood work teacher in a Home (which is situated in the south of Ireland Galway) for delinquent boys, which was run by a sadistic, cruel Brother called Brother Benedict. The relationship between the two men was hostile as Benedict was an academic snob who looked down on Sebastian for his lack of formal education. He uses the simile and the metaphor: “A man with one language is like a man with one eye.
I myself have four good eyes and a few lesser ones – which could be polished up” Both Brother Sebastian and Benedict disagreed with each other on how to discipline the boys in the Home. Benedict’s attitude was “If they do not conform we thrash them. We teach them a little of God and a lot of fear. ” He criticised Sebastian for his “Soft centred self centred idealism”. Owen Kane was put into the Home by his mother for “always mitching school”. Owen suffered from epilepsy and was the youngest boy in the Home.
It is true that Owen had been put away because he had continually mitched school and had run away from home frequently – the Gardai had been informed on four occasions at least. God knows how many times they had not been informed. His father would beat him often: “When he came home he would get drunk and whip Owen with whatever came into hand”. His mother would often be absent from his company but he preferred all that than living in the Home. He had a neutral/positive relationship with Sebastian and a negative relationship with Benedict. Owen Kane and Sebastian both have the same views on the Home.
In the novel Brother Sebastian father dies and he is left a sum of money from the farm in which his father owned. Brother Benedict is lecturing about Obedience “Obedience, Brother, is a very rare virtue” and with no doubt wants Brother Sebastian to stay so the Brotherhood gets the money. From the novel we get the Atmosphere of what the Home was like “The walls were painted throughout a pale hospital green” and “The place was scrubbed and clean and dead “Like a corpse”. First instinctive impressions of the Home are lifeless cold miserable and absolutely unpleasant which do not relate to a “home” at all.
Bernard McLaverty uses his scenes to describe the Home and they have a similar description of a hospital “The air was full of disinfectant and polish”. The surrounding environment of outside the Home gives a bizarre welcome to inmates. “Surrounding the whole complex was a high wire fence that screamed and whistled in the constant wind from the sea” A great use of personification is used in this quote and it works to make you feel anything but nice feelings, it makes you feel the “Home” is more like a Prison and the boys were not there to be reformed but there for Punishment.
At the beginning of this novel I admire Sebastian for being nice to the “inmates” and especially to Owen who is the youngest of the boys in the Home, suffers from epilepsy and experienced a hard life with his parents. I feel sympathetic for Owen Kane as I believe he wasn’t given the opportunity at life before he was entered the Home. Benedict gets all my negatives as I see him for more evil than good. He is a bully to Sebastian, Owen and all the other boys. Brother Sebastian wants to leave because he doesn’t believe in by Benedict’s duct rue of “Kill and cure”.
He plans to run away and decides to take Owen with him. I believe Sebastian wanted to take Owen with him because he had sympathy for Owen and wanted him to have a better chance at life and he thought he could provide in the manner of a father and son relation… Personally I think this was the best decision to make for Owen and him self as both of them were miserable and living in the Home seemed like a dead end, an everlasting punishment to both of them. He is given the chance to abandon the Home when he receives the money from his father’s farm. With free will Owen agreed to leave.