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Abstract

Marina Carr's writing in On Raftery's Hill (2000) is the most recent, most relentlessly focused and complex of responses from an Irish dramatist to the issue of incestuous sexual violation. In her play she creates a world astray, full of obsession, havoc, mutilation and disgust. Eighteen-year old Sorrel Raftery is a young woman, living with her sister (Dinah), grandmother (Shalome), brother (Ded) and her father (Red). Sorrel is engaged to Dara Mood and just prior to her wedding her father rapes her. As the drama progresses it is discovered that Dinah is not Sorrel 's sister, but her mother. Father and daughter, who was twelve at the time, were brought together by Dinah's own mother and now many years on, nobody intervenes when Red attacks Sorrel. Carr grapples with the issues of power, sexuality, secrecy, shame, dysfunction, inferiority, indignity and addiction at the core of sexual abuse. Should the incestuous abuser be regarded as mentally ill, morally reprehensible and/or a criminal, she queries? Can we distinguish between sexual and psychological gratification? She confirms for an audience how a negative bond can be as strong as a positive one, how family victims of violation can be antagonistic, almost rivals towards each other, and seldom allies, and how the victims of abuse through processes of internalisation and identification with the abuser can accommodate themselves on one level to situations and circumstances, even as self-esteem is slowly peeled away through threat and apparent powerlessness. In this play there is no morality; it is a world at times almost without the mantle of humanity. The capacity to survive that experience is superbly captured by Carr, the complexity of the bond between the family members is brilliantly achieved, but for the first time in one of her midland's plays the life of the central female character does not end in suicide. There is optimism in the basic survival of the victims of the Raftery curse.

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