Get Adobe Flash player
  Today it's
SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
Home Middelbare School EN Uittreksels Uittreksel Bernard McLaverty – Cal

Uittreksel Bernard McLaverty – Cal

User Rating: / 1
Extracts English Literature
There are no translations available.

Bernard McLaverty – Cal

Cape, (1983)


The title refers to the main character of the novel: Cal McCluskey. The novel depicts his thoughts and what happens to him.


Bernard MacLaverty was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1942. He enjoyed a relatively peaceful childhood in Ulster. His father's death when Bernard was 12 came as a great shock . After leaving school Bernard spent ten years working at the anatomy laboratory of Queens University in Belfast. Meanwhile he married and has three children.

At the age of 28 he decided that he would like to go to university after all. He studied English literature, graduated and gained a teaching qualification. He decided to become a teacher in Edinburgh, and three years later took up a teaching post in the Isle of Islay, off the West coast of Scotland, and started writing. In 1981 he decided to become a full time writer.

Bernard made his debut in 1977 with a book of short stories and published his first novel Lamb in 1980. Lamb was highly praised and was short-listed for the Guardian Fiction Prize. "Cal" is his second novel and won widespread acclaim. The film Cal was also well received.

Other work by the author:


The literary period:

The second part of the Twentieth century.

The genre:

Psychological novel.


Cal McCluskey is a 19-year-old Roman Catholic boy, who lives together with his father Shamie, in an Ulster country town. They are the only two Catholics left in a Protestant working-class neighbourhood. Although they are friendly with their neighbours, they are pressured to leave the neighbourhood by its other inhabitants. Cal and Shamie do not want to give in to the pressure.

Although Cal is favouring neither the Protestant Loyalists nor the Catholic Provisionals, his Catholic 'friend' Crilly presses him into the Irish Republican Army. Against his will, Cal becomes a getaway driver for the army. One night Cal drives Crilly to a raid on a Protestant home. The mission ends with the murder of Robert Morton, a Protestant Reserve Policeman. From that moment Cal feels 'a brand stamped in blood in the middle of his forehead which would take him the rest of his life to purge'. The novel starts when a year has passed since the murder. The incident still has its influence on Cal. He can't forget

Cal used to work at the abattoir with his father, but his stomach is too weak for it. Since he left his job there Cal has been on the dole. He spends most of his time playing his guitar and listening to blues tapes, which he borrows from the local library. Together with his father he is under constant threat by the protestants in the neighbourhood. Crilly offers a gun to Shamie, who feels much safer with it. Cal wants to give up his connections with the terrorist IRA, but cannot refuse Crilly and Skeffington without risking reprisals.

One day Cal sees a new librarian at the library: Marcella. He is struck by her beauty and he falls hopelessly and helplessly in love. He finds out that she is the widow of Robert Morton. She's an Italian Catholic, married to a protestant policeman. Cal is fascinated by 'the one woman who was forbidden him'. Being with her fills him with delight, but also intensifies his feelings of guilt. Eventually Cal manages to get a job at the farm belonging to the family of Marcella's husband. Marcella lives at the farm, together with her daughter Lucy.

When the Protestants firebomb his home Cal takes his father to one of his cousins. Cal himself breaks into a derelict cottage on the Morton farm. When the Morton find out about his stay, Marcella persuades them to let Cal stay at the cottage. Cal thinks that Crilly and Skeffington will never find him there. Marcella and Cal see more and more of each other. Gradually they are drawn towards each other. Marcella confesses that her marriage with Robert wasn't very happy and that she at times actually feels relieved that it's over. Cal wants to be open and honest but he's afraid to loose her.

The next morning, on Christmas Eve, Cal is arrested. The arrests of Crilly and Skeffinton apparently have led to his own arrest. Cal is grateful that he can do penance for his crime.


Considering the historical background (IRA) the story is situated in the early 80's.


The story is set in a small contemporary Ulster country town and at the farm of Robert Morton's parents.

Characters and relationships:

Cal McCluskey:

A 19-year-old Roman Catholic boy who is unemployed and lives with his father in a Protestant neighbourhood in an Ulster country town. Cal is afraid of the Protestants in the neighbourhood, but feels equally uncomfortable amidst his Catholic friends. Cal feels guilty for his involvement in the death of Robert Morton.

Marcella Morton:

A 28-year-old librarian, the widow of Robert Morton. She's a Roman catholic who married a Protestant policeman. She lives with her small daughter with Robert's parents. She is lonely and feels that her in-laws treat her like a schoolgirl.

Shamie McCluskey:

Shamie is Cal's father. He works at the abattoir and feels Cal should never have given up his job there. Shamie is deeply worried with the Irish situation. After his home is burnt down, he ages rapidly.

Crilly and Skeffington:

Cal's old schoolmate and his superior at the IRA. Crilly luxuriates in violence, apparently for the IRA's sake, but in fact primarily for his own sake. Skeffington is happy to exploit Crilly and make innocent people suffer.

Mr and Mrs Morton:

Robert Morton's parents. Mr Morton is badly injured in the attack on his son. Mrs Morton nurses him and runs the farm. They are deeply hurt by the death of their only son, but still employ Catholics.




The senselessness of sectarian violence and a plea for tolerance.



Linguistic usage:

The novel is easy to read and understand. The author doesn't use difficult words or slang.




The story is told by an omniscient author. The perspective is with Cal. Everything that happens to him is described in the novel.


There are 5 numbered chapters.

Own opinion on the book:

Your opinion!

(1977, short stories), Lamb (1980, novel), A time to dance and other stories (1982, short stories)


When you think you can't... revisit a previous triumph.

Wanneer je denkt dat je het niet kunt... denk dan terug aan een vorige overwinning.

Jack Canfield