Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

MA English




Martha Carpentier, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Redwine, Ph.D.


abjection, scapegoat, myth, O’Brien, mothers, sons, Ireland, Irish, identity, isolation, forest, nature


This thesis examines the protagonists in Edna O’Brien’s In the Forest and House of Splendid Isolation and applies Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection and Rene Girard’s theory of the scapegoat. In doing so, I attempt to give a richer understanding of O’Brien’s masculine and feminine characters and how their constructed identities are based on their cultural circumstances and positions in their societies. I use Kristeva’s theory of abjection to analyze the single women in these novels, Eily and Josie, who become metaphorical single mothers by the invasions of young men into their homes. Then, I apply Girard’s theory of the scapegoat to the young men, O’Kane and McGreevy, who eventually fulfill roles as sons. These theories give way to the fact that O’Brien’s characters are extremely complex and multifaceted. Furthermore, the theory of abjection and of the scapegoat can give fuller understanding to the real-world problems in In the Forest and House of Splendid Isolation and provide a solution.