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An Hibernian Tale – Representations of Identity in the Irish Big House Novel


  • Ludvig Bertilsson

Summary, in English

The genre of the Irish “Big House” novel is one deeply entrenched in historical context. To be unaware of the setting, and the significance of identity within it, lessens the understanding and impact of character, motivations, and conflict in the text. This essay discusses and analyses displays of identity through language, subtext, and history in two novels in the Big House genre: Castle Rackrent: An Hibernian Tale by Maria Edgeworth, published in 1800, and The Real Charlotte from 1894 written by the duo Somerville and Ross. Clashing identities run throughout the hearts of these novels, those of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy and the Irish peasantry. Five topics emerge concerning the historical and societal factors vital in understanding how these identities are represented on and off the page: the self-destructing nature of the gentry, the development of social climbers, heteroglossia, subtextual challenge to the social order, and relevant political changes of the time. Language and historical context are fundamental to the portrayal of identity in these novels, and exploring these perspectives grants an understanding of the social commentary inherent in them.


Publishing year




Document type

Student publication for Bachelor's degree


  • Languages and Literatures


  • Big House
  • Irish Literature
  • Castle Rackrent
  • The Real Charlotte
  • Maria Edgeworth
  • Somerville and Ross
  • Irish History
  • Irish Identity


  • Annika Lindskog