Brian Moore, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne (1955)
Abandonment
in The Existential drinker
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Brian Moore’s novel The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne is set in a boarding-house in early 1950s Belfast, but it is quite a few pages before Judith Hearne’s drinking habit is revealed. The novel then portrays the effect on an individual when belief in God disappears. Alienated through ostensibly social causes such as her ‘odd duck’ physical appearance and family responsibility, the character’s dulling of reality through drink is also her response to the kind of bleak truth that Jack London identifies in John Barleycorn. Hearne’s society, family, and upbringing are powerfully infused with Catholicism, and as her experience of apostasy becomes stronger so does her recognition that she is completely free to behave how she wishes, which includes more socially unacceptable drinking. The chapter places the novel’s thematic concerns within the wider context of Existentialism’s focus on how to respond to a world which is now deemed to have been abandoned by a God who, nevertheless, cannot be entirely shaken off. These difficulties are partly filtered through the secular and religious meanings of ‘passion’.

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