84 pages 2 hours read

John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

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Symbols & Motifs


Catholicism is seen at the forefront of Irish culture in the novel and thus represents an important motif. Charting the slow transformation of religious values in Irish society from 1945-2015, the religion is painted through a largely negative lens. The events of Cyril’s life come to illustrate the Catholic Church’s influence on Irish government, its influence on people’s views of one another, and the hypocrisy that exists within it.

This hypocrisy is showcased from the very first line of the novel when it is proclaimed that the priest who threw Catherine out of Goleen was also having two affairs of his own. When Catherine is cast out for being pregnant, her family does nothing to help her. The priest drags her out of the church by her hair and throws her to the street as if she is garbage; this event sets the stage for Cyril, unknowingly fated to a life of ostracism and judgment. Throughout Catherine’s life, women are also barred from working once they were married. It was determined by the Church that a woman’s children, husband, and home should be their focus, and nothing more. It was not until the 1970s that women were finally given the right to both work and marry.