Analysis Of Alice Mcdermott's After This

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In her 2002 novel After This, Alice McDermott creates a memorable account of an American family in the middle of the twentieth century. McDermott details the life of the Keanes, a working-class, Irish-Catholic family, as Mary and John Keane, along with their four children, navigate the shifting world they live in. With the Keanes, McDermott analyzes exactly what it means to be part of a family and the responsibilities of parenthood. Mary and John raise their children with love for them that weighs like “heavy stones against [their] thumping heart[s],” uncertain about what their children might need from them and how they may provide it (McDermott 41). In this way, After This is an examination of the difficulties of parenting, as John and Mary …show more content…
Every character in the novel, even the adults of the family, deals with the reality that while growing up allows for freedom and liberation, it also brings the onus of duty and disappointment. The novel passes through about twenty-five years in the life of the Keanes, with McDermott using certain moments or events from the lives of the characters to illustrate the state of the family rather than relying on traditional narrative structure. Some of these events are momentous, like a son getting drafted to the army or a friend of a daughter undergoing an abortion, while others are seemingly inconsequential, like a family trip to the beach. These moments, both ordinary and important, weave together to create the family’s history and experience, which McDermott uses to explore how the characters react to change, heartbreak, and disappointment in the context of their …show more content…
The two begin dating and eventually marry. Soon after, Mary becomes pregnant with their first child, their “baby grand” (27). The narrative skips forward and the Keanes have three children: Jacob (the eldest), Michael, and Annie, with another on the way. After missing church one day to take a family trip to the beach, a hurricane hits Long Island and the Keanes. In the aftermath of the storm, Mary goes into labor and a neighbor helps deliver their fourth child, Clare. As Clare, and the rest of the children, grow up, the family continues to live with their parish being renovated and John hurting his leg. One year, three weeks before Christmas, Jacob is drafted, causing one family friend to advise John to “shoot him in the foot…before you let him go” (136). While Jacob goes Vietnam (where he eventually is killed), Michael goes upstate to college to learn to become a teacher and spends his free time in a bar, occasionally having sex with strangers. Annie also goes away to college, in England, but she soon drops out to live with a man she met on a bus, “dealing her parents another blow” (251). The final event of the novel has Clare getting married at seventeen after becoming pregnant with her first boyfriend and her parents wondering “how much more [they] can take”

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