English 150 Recitation Lesson Plan: The Butcher Boy

Emma Boorman
English 150
Wednesday 20 November 2013, 6 p.m. section

Selected Text

After that ma took my part and the last thing I heard was Nugent going down the lane and calling back Pigs—sure the whole town knows that!

Ma pulled me down the stairs and gave me the mother and father of a flaking but it took more out of her than it did out of me for her hands were trembling like leaves in the breeze she threw the stick from her and steadied herself in the kitchen saying she was sorry over and over. She said there was nobody in the world meant more to her than me. Then she put her arms around me and said it was her nerves it was them to blame for everything. It wasn't always like this for your father and me she said. Then she looked into my eyes and said: Francie-you would never let me down would you?

(The Butcher Boy, Patrick McCabe, pp. 4-5)


Francie, the young anti-hero of the novel, has stolen comic books from a more affluent classmate who attended a private school in London for a period of time before traveling back to Ireland, where he is from originally. The boy's mother, Mrs. Nugent, is unpleased when she hears this and goes to Francie's house to speak with his mother. Everything sounds normal until Francie hears Mrs. Nugent berate the family:

She said she knew the kind of us long before she went to England and she might have known not to let her son anywhere near the likes of me what else would you expect from a house where the father's never in, lying about the pubs from morning to night, he's no better than a pig. (4)

Historical context

The Butcher Boy was written in 1992 and takes place during the 1960s. As we have learned in class, this was a time in which peaceful protests for Catholic civil rights flourished along with the continuing violence (such as the 1969 Northern Ireland Riots), even after Irish Independence.

Anxiety of influence

Early Irish authors did not have to worry about this because of a lack of Irish literature in English. However, by 1992, this was most likely an issue for McCabe. Can the influence of other authors we have read in class ben seen in this passage from The Butcher Boy?

Violence, Nationalism, Class and Gender

We have discussed gender and the influence of violence on identity. How does that relationship work in this passage, particularly with Francie's mother and father?

We have also discussed the relationship between nationalism and class. Why do you think Mrs. Nugent is so eager to point out the difference between England and Ireland when she goes to talk to Francie's mother? Do you think Francie's family, because of their socioeconomic status, uphold stereotypes Mrs. Nugent might believe in? Keep in mind Mrs. Nugent is from Ireland, but lived in London.

How does Francie, as a child, fit into these questions of nationalism, class, violence, and gender? Could he represent the fallout of colonial influence in Ireland? Why are his abusive parents significant if we look at him as a postcolonial symbol?