Essay, Pages 3 (749 words)
Over a career spanning five decades, Leon Uris has enjoyed phenomenal popularity, with five of his twelve novels classified as number-one best-sellers by the New York Times. While the shortcomings in his prose, characterization, and political outlook have been well noted, Uris certainly ranks among the more important multicultural writers since World War II.
His books explore a number of the defining cultural conflicts of the twentieth century: the Nazis’ attempted extermination of the Jews, the volatile clash between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East, and the long-running battle between the British and Irish in Ireland, most notably.
Millions of readers have learned the history behind these major intercultural conflicts from Uris’s fiction. At its annual dinner in 1978, at which the benediction was given by a Baptist minister from Belfast, the Gold Medal was awarded to Leon Uris, author of Trinity, a best-selling novel on the troubles in Ireland.
The imperialist British have drawn Uris’s frequent ire. He levels harsh criticism against the British in Trinity for their self-interested administration and their failure to support Ireland in its infancy.
In this book, Uris condemns the British for demeaning and subjugating Irish Catholics. He describes the British presence in Ireland as four centuries of tortured foreign occupation. In Uris’s version of Irish history, Ulster, now the nation of Northern Ireland, was established as a British plantation, a fortress outpost of colonial exploitation peopled with British-descended Ulstermen whose hatred of Irish Catholics smells strangely of Aryan supremacy of Nazi ideology.
Trinity is a romantic, sentimental fiction about Ireland’s fight for independence. It feeds the myth of heroic opposition in the face of impossible odds. It is a paean to blood sacrifice, to the idea that the chosen few who are prepared to take upon themselves the burden of history can themselves make history, that blood sacrifice is a noble and a cleansing thing, that a glorious defeat is a prerequisite to prevailing, that in death there is victory. The novel’s heroes plan revolution in the face of hopeless odds; they gladly lay down their lives, eager to embrace a defeat that may somehow “stir the ashes of [the] people into a series of even more glorious defeats” so that “over the land long dead stirrings” will at last be heard (731).
Trinity is bad history but powerful propaganda. It became more powerful still in the stench-ridden wings, where for nights on end the heroic exploits of Long Dan Sweeney and Conor Larkin and Brendan Sean Barrett, who, in their epic pursuit of Irish freedom, had been incarcerated and abused in captivity, who had endured hunger striking itself – “a silent defiance” – became for the prisoners fictional role models with whom they could identify, in- vesting their protest with a political leitmotif that mirrored their own lives. “No crime a man commits on behalf of his freedom can be as great as the crime committed by those who deny him freedom,” Long Dan Sweeney declares.
“We engage in a fight vulnerable to scathing propaganda, unloved by most of our own people, but God and God alone will eventually decide which side was just in its aspirations and which side was evil.” “Remember,” he exhorts his fellow revolutionaries, “the British have nothing in their entire arsenal of imperial might to counter a single man who refuses to be broken. Irish words, Irish self-sacrifice, and ultimately Irish martyrdom are our weapons. We must have the ability to endure pain to such an extent that they lose the ability to inflict it. This and this alone will break them in the end” (466).
Fact and fiction reinforced each other. Trinity had its historical counterpoint in 1916, the H-block protest its fictional counterpoint in Trinity. The primitive, repelling circumstances of the H-blocks were often more unimaginable and less real than the imagined circumstances in Trinity. Fantasy fed the heart, and there grew among a number of the blanketmen a belief that a hunger strike would provide the catalytic momentum that would make 1916 come again.
This theme of British cultural bigotry is central in Trinity. In the latter, British prejudice extends outward to include the Australians and New Zealanders sacrificed in Ireland has had a troubled history for over 800 years. Leon Uris’ Trinity deals with various aspects of Irish history. Find out about the main events in the history of Ireland and you will understand the present political troubles in modern Ireland.
Uris, Leon. Trinity. New York: Doubleday, 1976.