Monday, 8 August 2011

Barry Lyndon Plot Summary, Chapters 1 and 2

Chapter 1

  • The Barries came to Ireland with Simon de Bary who was given a piece of land for his services during Richard II's military intervention. (This would have been in 1394-95)
  • During Elizabeth I's reign, Roderick "Rory" Barry was in a feud and a passing band of English soldiers under Roger Lyndon offered to aid. Having successfully ended the feud, the English stay with the Barries, causing Rory's son Phaudrig to plot their deaths. His sister, however, who was enamoured of Lyndon warned him and the English killed the Barries and seized their land.
  • Henry "Roaring Harry" Barry, protagonist Redmond Barry's father was famous for his skills at fighting, hunting and riding. He converted to Protestantism to be able to legally inherit the estate in the place of his older, Catholic brother who goes on to join the Jacobite uprising and feature prominently later in the novel. It also allows him to marry Bell Brady, the local beauty and Redmond's mother to be.
  • On the point of being provided for by George II, Harry dies. Since he had spent the family fortune, Bell and Redmond returns to Ireland and is invited to stay with Michael Brady, Bell's brother at Castle Brady.
  • When Bell's poverty becomes apparent she leaves Castle Brady on Mrs. Brady's insistence. In spite of this, his mother stays respectable, according to Barry.
  • Barry is invited to stay at Brady's. Here, he is beaten by Mick, the oldest son, but fights back. He spends his days looking for and getting into fights.
  • He claims he had great talents, but ran away from school because of the Latin lessons.
  • He relates an interpolated episode where he meets Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Oliver Goldsmith and bests them in discussion.
  • He satirically comments on ladies' passivity in courtship and muses on a reversal of roles. In doing so he uses language of violence and conquest.
  • Furthermore, he relates the story of his first love, his coquettish cousin Honoria Brady (christened by Jonathan Swift and eight years his senior).
  • The country starts preparing for a possible French invasion and Barry meets a number of officers. Nora practices her coquetry on him, so much so that when she abandons him for the English Captain Quin, he takes desperate measures. He runs the horse he and Nora is riding into the river, nearly drowning them both and he ends up in a fever. While confined to his sick-bed, he writes poetry to Nora and discovers her and Quin together. He challenges him to a duel and Nora's reaction disgusts Quin, who tries to break off their relationship. At that moment, Mick, to whom Quin ows a sum of money, shows up and joins the fight.
Chapter 2

  • Nora feigns a faint during which Quin escapes.
  • Barry ponders his faith and bemoans his lot for some hours. Then, at dinner, he learns that Quin and Nora are in fact engaged to be married and in consequence, he flings a class of wine at Quin. This act serves as a duel challenge. Mick and his younger brother Ulick, who has tended to take Barry's side against his brother, follows Quin home, presumably in order to stop him from running away.
  • Barry is followed home by another officer, Fagan, who unsuccessfully tries to dissuade him from duelling. Barry is offered to apologise and be paid by Quin to go to Dublin, but refuses the offer.
  • At the duel, Barry is told to aim at Quin's neck. They use Quin's pistols and as Quin's death seems staged and Barry is urged to leave three times, the duel might be rigged.
  • At Ulick's insistence, Barry adopts Redmond as a surname and leaves his mother's house for Dublin.
Source: Thackeray, W.M.: Barry Lyndon, Oxford Paperbacks, New Ed., 1999

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