The Playboy of the Western World

J.M. Synge

It’s impossible to study J.M. Synge’s most controversial comic play without examining the riotous reception that met its first run in the Abbey Theatre. Protagonist Christy Mahon flees to a sleepy town on the west coast of Ireland and excites locals with tales of supposed patricide. Where one might expect the town to condemn Christy, he’s celebrated. Considered an insult to Irish morals, riots lasted an entire week.

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë

‘Reader, I married him,’ is arguably the most famous line from Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel Jane Eyre. Charlotte’s readers quickly learn, however, that Jane’s story is not one of pure romance. Following Jane from her difficult formative years right through to her marriage with Rochester, students explore the class, gender and religious restrictions Jane faced in 19th century England. 

Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys

Often taught in tandem with Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys raises important questions about what stories are told and by whom. Written from three different viewpoints, the reader delves into a world of conflict, cruelty and colonialism in 1830s Jamaica and learns that there is ‘always the other side, always’.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

Eight decades since its first publication, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is still a favourite with schools and students alike. With conflicting themes like friendship and loneliness, isolation and injustice, beauty and brutality, this short novel is packed with points for discussion and debate.


Bernard MacLaverty

In Brother Benedict’s Home, boys are taught ‘a little of God and a lot of fear’. Quickly disillusioned by the cruelty shown to children, Brother Sebastian (Michael Lamb) decides to use his inheritance to flee, taking the maltreated Owen Kane with him.  For Michael, this might be Owen’s only chance at happiness. For the rest of Ireland, Michael is a criminal kidnapper. Readers must consider the cruelty of love, the question of faith and the friendship provided in father figures.

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