Living on the Hyphen: How Elizabeth Bowen Portrays the Predicament of the Anglo-Irish in The Last September

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Green, Laura
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This paper explores the portrayal of the Anglo-Irish in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September. Bowen writes from personal experience with a strong sense of irony to explore the relationships of this declining class and their relationship with their adopted homeland. As an inhabitant of an Anglo-Irish Big House, Bowen writes from the perspective of the Anglo–Irish but views their deteriorating existence with the clarity of one far more removed. Bowen’s life mirrors that of the protagonist Lois, struggling with issues of identity and escape from an antiquated society. The essay notes the effects this lack of identity has on the characters in the novel and the Anglo–Irish class as a whole at the time it is set. Issues of detachment from land and heritage, lack of communication and relationships between characters, and the ignorance of a middle and upper social class, the Anglo-Irish, to understand their deterioration during the years of the Irish War of Independence are also explored. Author keywords: Anglo-Irish literature, Bowen, Elizabeth, 1899-1973, The Last September, Irish War of Independence