84 pages 2 hours read

John Boyne

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2017

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Bearing Witness to Prejudice, Intolerance, and Hatred

Content Warning: This Themes section discusses the prejudice, intolerance, and hate crimes against gay men that are portrayed in The Heart’s Invisible Furies.

Prejudice, intolerance, and hatred are at the forefront of Cyril’s life from the moment he is born. Deeply affected by traditionalism, the Catholic religion, and antiquated laws, Ireland in the 20th century was a dangerous place for Cyril to live. This is evident from Book 1 when Seán is killed by his own father after his father confirms that he is gay. After witnessing Seán’s death, Catherine gives birth to Cyril in an environment of violence; the moment initiates his role as a witness to prejudice and hatred. This sets a precedent for his life and narrative; in telling his life story, Cyril effectively calls out instances of intolerance to gay people, women, those with AIDS, and others, pointing out the need for social chance in Ireland and around the world.  

Growing up, Cyril does not understand his own feelings due to the shame and secrecy surrounding being gay at the time. Ironically, when he finally does confide in Julian years later, he is shunned and rejected for the lies he told. In Ireland at this time, being gay is not only considered a mental illness, but is also a criminal offense punishable by law.