Jennifer M. Jeffers
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‘What’s it like being Irish?’
The return of the repressed in Roddy Doyle’s Paula Spencer

Roddy Doyle first created Paula Spencer in his 1996 novel The Woman Who Walked Into Doors. In the ten years between the Paula Spencer narratives not only has Paula's life changed, but all of Dublin has undergone a transformation. As Doyle's indigenous- working-class-white-Irish-Catholic-Dubliner spokesperson, Paula bears witness throughout the novel to the societal, cultural and economic changes in Dublin. Doyle's return of the repressed repeatedly records life from the perspective of the poor and marginalised in Dublin in order to challenge the complacent, homogeneous view of Irish identity. In the twenty-first century, according to Doyle, the question 'What's it like being Irish?' no longer comes from 'a Guinness commercial or a Bord Failte promotion', but is essentially 'unanswerable'. In Doyle's universe, Paula and her immigrant cohorts are the truly Irish, 'the niggers of Europe', as a long-suffering, economically depressed people.

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