Rafferty’s Return: Diaspora and Dislocation in Edna O’Brien’s “Shovel Kings”

  • Tony Murray
Part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship book series (MDC)


Much recent presentation of Irishness in Irish governmental tourism initiatives has promoted a sense of seamlessness in the relationship between Ireland and its diaspora communities. In contrast, a great deal of fictional and autobiographical writing about the Irish migrant experience in Britain has emphasised dislocation, fragmentation and discontinuity. Edna O’Brien’s short story, “Shovel Kings” (2011), rehearses many of the archetypal motifs of male Irish exile in London through the reflections of Rafferty, a retired navvy. In contrasting this with the marginalisation of traditional storytelling practices during Rafferty’s failed return to Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years, Murray examines the role that narrative plays in voicing and mediating the dissonances and dislocations of the Irish diaspora.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tony Murray
    • 1
  1. 1.Irish Studies CentreLondon Metropolitan UniversityLondonUK

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