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Christy Brown Biography

(1932–81), My Left Foot, Down All the Days, A Shadow on Summer, Wild Grow the Lilies

dublin novel foot left

Irish novelist and poet, born in Dublin, the son of a bricklayer and one of twenty-three children. A victim of cerebral palsy, he was able to write only with the aid of his left foot, which he used to operate a specially adapted typewriter. My Left Foot (1954), an autobiography describing his fight to overcome his disability, was later made into an award-winning film; it was followed by an autobiographical novel, Down All the Days (1970), which is set, like much of his work, in Dublin. His second novel, A Shadow on Summer (1974), follows its protagonist, a crippled writer, Riley McCombe, to America, where he becomes involved with a beautiful photographer. Wild Grow the Lilies (1976) described the peregrinations around Dublin of an Irish journalist in search of a story. A Promising Career, a novel set in London and concerning a young couple caught up in the corrupt world of the recording industry, and Collected Poems, were published posthumously in 1982.

E. K. Brown (Edward Killoran Brown) Biography - (1905–51), (Edward Killoran Brown), On Canadian Poetry [next]

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almost 7 years ago

The selection from "My Left Foot" in Prentice Hall(Platinum)p.156 was assigned to Grade 11. The written assignment was an essay on the significant moment as described in the selection. To teach my class by presenting a model, I wrote the following essay.From Bondage to Freedom

A significant moment in a person’s life may be defined as a compelling time, one that breaks barriers and launches new enterprises. In the excerpt from Christy Brown’s autobiography My Left Foot, the author builds up toward that significant moment in his life which converted his isolated existence into freedom from bondage. What is that significant moment, and how does Brown build up to it in his writing? The purpose of this essay is to answer these questions.

The significant moment in Christy Brown’s life can be identified as the successful writing of the letter A, following the excited and urgent dictates of his mother when his left foot, “apparently by its own volition, reached out and … took the chalk out of [his] sister’s hand.” Though seemingly easy for a normal five-year old, it was Herculean for cerebral palsy-stricken Christy. In Brown’s written words, “That one letter, scrawled on the floor with a broken bit of yellow chalk gripped between my toes, was my road to a new world, my key to mental freedom.”

How does autobiographer Brown build up to that significant moment? To say the least, skillfully and effectively. Skillfully, he does it by presenting a fundamental and then an immediate build up towards the decisive moment . The first build up describes his difficult birth and the symptoms of his cerebral palsy in such detail that the reader forgets that it is the allegedly “difficult one,” the “hopeless case” that is conveying this information about the struggles Christy’s mother had with the doctors who could do nothing to remedy an invalid. It also dwells on Mrs. Brown’s conviction and patience – the two miracle producing virtues. Needless to say, Brown stresses his inability to communicate and his mother’s unsuccessful attempts and trials and tribulations to glorify the impact of his mother’s virtues and determination, to which he owes his final success.

Brown’s immediate build up to the significant moment is no less effective. He describes the quietness of the kitchen as it were to set the scene for the celebrated event. His detailed slow motion account of every move each family member makes as Christy bites his lips, digs his nails into the flesh of his fists , and writes the letter A with his left foot, is a powerful device to spotlight the miraculous moment.

To conclude, it is fair to say that Brown truly takes his reader through his so called mentally defective state, his loneliness, his imprisonment in a crippled body, unable to break loose from bondage, to deposit him on a climax of triumph demonstrated by Mr. Brown’s hoisting Christy on his shoulders the moment he writes the first letter of the alphabet. Lifting his reader with him during his elevating experience, Brown expresses the impact saying, “It had started… to give my mind the chance to express itself.”



Teacher of English