‘We Were Treated Very Badly, Treated Like Slaves’: A Critical Metaphor Analysis of the Accounts of the Magdalene Laundries Victims

  • Miguel-Ángel Benítez-Castro
  • Encarnación Hidalgo-Tenorio
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


In the last decade, the Magdalene Laundries scandal has revealed endemic problems of Irish society. From 1765 to 1996, these asylums run by female religious congregations became prisons for prostitutes, single mothers, abused girls or young ladies allegedly prone to seduction. Forced into these institutions, those women had to work under pseudo-slave conditions. Drawing on the materials compiled by Justice for Magdalenes, we examine their verbalised experience from a critical discourse analysis angle. We thus aim to identify the ideologies that the metaphorical patterns used by the victims reflect, as they awaken to the trauma of their past. This analysis can help us to understand their construal of redemption and remorse, the blame attributed to the Catholic Church, their conception of womanhood, and their portrayal of cruelty and violence.



We would like to express our warmest thanks to Katherine O’Donnell, not only for granting access to the materials analysed in this paper, but especially for having first shared her enthusiasm and commitment with us. Our gratitude goes as well to Mick O’Donnell for his support with some technical difficulties we encountered during the corpus annotation process.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel-Ángel Benítez-Castro
    • 1
  • Encarnación Hidalgo-Tenorio
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Filologías Inglesa y AlemanaUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  2. 2.Departamento de Filologías Inglesa y AlemanaUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain

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