Heart of a peach and 'Are we such savages?' Mary Beckett's fiction and the failure of social mobility
Heart of a Peach and '"Are We Such Savages?" Mary Beckett's Fiction and the Failure of Social Mobility' is a PhD thesis comprising two components: a novel and a critical essay. My novel, Heart of a Peach, is structured in two chronological parts: part one is set in Ardoyne, a Catholic working-class area in Belfast, 1981, the year Bobby Sands died, and part two in a university in London, 2005, the year of the London bombings. The two main characters are an ex-parachute regiment soldier who served in Belfast and who is now a porter, and a native woman of Ardoyne who is now an art history lecturer: both work at the same university. Thematically, the novel is concerned with: emotional and sexual repression, surveillance and public space and the failure of social mobility. These themes are further examined in my critical essay. Formally, the work combines realistic storytelling with experimental methods, and is written in close third person through a continuous present tense. The critical essay examines and discuss the work of Mary Beckett, (1926-2013), a Belfast-born writer whose small output of finely wrought short stories, radio plays and one novella make a shrewd contribution to the fictional narrative histories of Northern Irish working-class women. Beckett worked in Ardoyne, the same area of Belfast I write about in my novel. Looking at her two collections of short stories, A Belfast Woman and A Literary Woman together with her novel Give Them Stones, I address the overarching theme of the failure of social mobility in three chapters: 'Displacement', 'Desired Acts of Unfeminine Violence' and 'Shame and Belonging' drawing upon relevant fictional sources and first person oral history accounts from the period of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. There is currently little substantive research on Beckett's work, save for a few interviews and brief mentions in larger survey works of Northern Irish writing; it is my aim therefore that my research will provide new and original knowledge in this area.