The chapters of George Moore’s Confessions of a Young Man which I wish to emulate here are chapters one and two. The chapters concern the early years of the protagonist Dwayne (presumed to be Moore himself). He speaks about his father, his childhood, his trip to France and how the people he met influenced his life. In the text, Moore’s style shifts smoothly from describing past events that have already occurred to describing events in the present tense, an example of this would be Moore’s own thoughts at the time these events occurred; “Why not write comedy? So the thought came. I had never written anything save a few ill-spelt letters; but no matter. To find a plot, that was the first thing to do.” (Moore, ch. 2) This distinctive shift in reader’s perspective is not an easy thing for an author to accomplish as I discovered in writing this essay. Moore also addresses the reader at several points, reminding the reader that he is reading a novel even though it is based on real events. The events, people and times described below are from my own life, specifically, my father, work, education, my first love and my son. I have attempted to write in the same style as Moore using techniques described by Moore such as the ‘melodic line’ (Stewart p.375). I have also tried to emulate Moore’s use of metaphorical imagery and free indirect speech.
As the youngest of ten children born into a poverty stricken class and raised in less than ideal circumstances, I still reminisce of those early years that were so instrumental in forming the identity I have now as a man of twenty nine years. By the time I reached working age my father allowed me to accompany him to the old quarry which he had invested all his money in when times were better before I was born. My five older brothers had left home by the time I was eleven, no doubt to pursue careers that did not entail picking stones out of the ground which was a common chore when working alongside my father. He devoted all his spare time to my ‘core education’ which he imparted to me through obscure and seemingly endless philosophical stories and physical laboring of which now I still have difficulty in applying their relevance to everyday life. He explained many things; that I would one day be someone great, that no matter how rich or powerful I became, without an education there would still be people who thought they were better than me, that real happiness cannot be found outside of oneself, religion is a con, and the true nature of reality is beyond human grasp.
Sometimes I yearned to be at home with my mother especially when it rained or if the work itself seemed folly, but mostly my mind wandered and my imagination grew to new levels as a result of the repetitiveness of the tasks at hand. I dreamt of growing up and becoming a man, I desired adventure and excitement and of course women, the latter pre-eminent in most of my imaginings. I had little interest in academia and by the time I was fourteen I was suspended from school for kidnapping the infant Jesus from the nativity crib. It was a fellow student and confidant Judith, who alerted the principal to my ‘sin’ under heavy questioning. I never returned to secondary level education after that except to sit my leaving certificate, the result of which convinced me at the time that my future lay not in academia. By the time I was eighteen I had but one desire; to leave my hometown and live and work in Galway. I made the decision to go, packed a bag and boarded the Galway express bus from Drogheda station.
Sitting in the back seat I read The Fountainhead by Ann Ryand, the main protagonist, Roark, was a character with whom I could relate; he never compromised his integrity, herequired recognition or acclaim from no one, he was sure of himself and he was not afraid of failure. I was Roark. Ann Ryand was a genius and she described in my opinion the perfect man, a man who I intended to emulate in everything I did. I was young and idealistic and it wasn’t long before my self-imposed integrity was compromised by my own actions and I realized like many others that I would inevitably take any opportunity and advantage bestowed upon me in order to further myself in life. I came to accept that morally I was no better than anyone else.
When I was twenty I met a girl and immediately fell in love and she with me. She was thirty years old, had graduated from Melbourne University with a degree in fine art and a MA in English. We would sit late into the night discussing philosophy, art, literature (all of which I had little understanding of at the time). She was patient, understanding and showed me unconditional love. We both agreed we were soul mates. Thus began my ‘second education’. I was inspired by her wealth of knowledge of which she delighted in sharing with me. I became more spiritual, as she was, I began to see the world in interesting new ways, and we experimented with life, broadened our perspectives and made a promise to one another that one day we would help change the world for the better. But for now we were in it for ourselves, we would exist only in the moment and enjoy our lives to their fullest. She was the centre of my attention; every room in which she spoke became a temple for spiritual enlightenment. She was beautiful and I was the envy of other men but I did not relish in that fact, she was much more to me than a fine beauty. I finally understood what my father had told me about happiness coming from within oneself, and I was happy. But it was over all too soon. One day she woke with a migraine, a week later she was in a coma, her brain destroyed by a stroke and another week later she was dead. I was consumed by grief, it emanated from every part of me and the well of my misery overflowed with tears. I was inconsolable.
The dream I was living had been shattered into a thousand fragments, and I awoke into a life of self-pity, bitterness and despair. It would be many years before I again saw anybeauty in life.
She consumed my thoughts for several years afterward and I often thought of the promise we had made together to change the world for the better. I was looking for work now and found a job as a night security officer at the N.U.I.G campus. Whether I subconsciously knew at that time where my life was headed I cannot be sure but as I patrolled the dark corridors of the university campus buildings I perceived a voice within me; It is one thing to be well read, it’s another to prove oneself by attainment of a University degree. After all, to whom shall I be addressing my world changing manifesto other than my academic superiors, and why should they endorse an uneducated proletariat like me? “So that is the reason you decided to apply for University,” assumes the reader, “so you can prove yourself to those whom your father told you thought themselves better than you?” And an astute observation that would be, if it were the truth, but it is not the reason. The real reason arrived on 06/07/08 traumatically I might add, in the maternity ward at University College Hospital. Umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, blue and bruised and beautiful; my son was born and had survived against the odds. My faith in life and my capacity to love, which I thought had been lost forever, was restored. I realized in that moment that all the past experiences of my life had steered me toward this event, one which would change me more than any other natural force. No sooner was he at home with me than I began my preparations for University, confident in my application and determined to make good on my promise which now had taken on a very personal impetus.
Moore, G. Confessions of a Young Man London : W. Heinemann, 1933.