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“The best is only bought at the cost of great pain”
Colleen McCullough presents the story of an unrequited love - a priest and a beautiful girl have to suppress their feelings for each other because of the rules of their religion.
And. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree. We understand. sharpest spine. Then. The thorn bird pays its life for just one song. Still we do it. but the whole world stills to listen and God in His heaven smiles. dying. we know.” . it rises above its own agony to outcarol the lark and the nightingale. singing among the savage branches. when we put the thorns in our breasts. it impales itself upon the longest.“There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life. more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. And still we do it. “ “But we. and does not rest until it has found one.
Dane's death by drowning. at Wellington. Her mother's background as a New Zealander is similar to that of Fee in the same novel. when she composed her first two novels. Her first two novels and “The Ladies of Missalonghi” rely upon settings from her youth. . at night. her hearty laugh and her regularly commented upon. sheep raising. including of course “The Thorn Birds”. and sugar growing. especially in “The Thorn Birds”. she lived in areas of what growing. she has lived most of her adult life outside that country and. in the Australian outback. Her father was cutter of sugar cane. she has turned to settings and materials quite different from those of her Australian background. that created her reputation. her chain smoking. however. She talks easily and fluently about her writing and is known for gladly meeting with interviewers and readers. Her size-five feet 10 inches and around 200 pounds-her red hair. has made it a primary setting for only a few of her novels. she began writing seriously only during her time at Yale. “Tim” and “The Thorn Birds”. Though she had written for herself since childhood. but practical considerations eventually made her change her mind. She had always considered that writing for publication would be a kind of prostitution. New South Wales. also in “The Thorn Birds”. She was born on June 1. reflects the death of McCullough's own brother. At various times. In most of her later work.Colleen McCullough Colleen McCullough seems always to impress those who meet her by her physical appearance and by her presence. Many details from her own life and observation have appeared in her fiction. from which came observations and experiences she later put to use in her fiction. in fact. 1937. Though she is usually thought of as an Australian writer. like Luke in “The Thorn Birds”. her loose-fitting and unfeminine attire.
. “The Thorn Birds” follows the Cleary family for three generations but the heart of the story is Meggie Cleary who grows from a child to womanhood and her forbidden love for Catholic Priest Ralph de Bricassart who is torn between his love for Meggie and his desire to ascend to the greatest heights of the Catholic Church. near Drogheda. The epic begins with Meghann "Meggie" Cleary. Fee has always loved Frank more than her other children. Paddy receives a letter from Mary offering him a job on her estate. Because he resembles her lost love. but has a wealthy sister. To the sorrow of Meggie and Fee. an Irish farm laborer. and Mary. has never been peaceful. who does not bother to conceal her desire for him. and the result. Frank. Of these brothers. and ambitious priest who. has been relegated to a remote parish in the town of Gillanbone. Fee had been the adored only daughter of a prominent citizen. sister of family patriarch Paddy Cleary. Meanwhile. The two vie for Fee's attention. who lives in Australia on an enormous sheep station called Drogheda. Long ago. the most prominent sheep ranch in the Australian Outback which is owned by Mary. Here Meggie meets Ralph de Bricassart. her favorite is the eldest. and the whole family moves to the Outback. also. as punishment for insulting a bishop. Then she had an affair with a married politician. Frank's relationship with his father. the only daughter of Paddy. One day. but very strong. after Fee. his harassed but aristocratic wife. Meggie. He accepts. Ralph has befriended Mary. Paddy is poor. Ralph blandly shrugs off these attentions and continues his visits. a rebellious young man who is unwillingly preparing himself for the blacksmith's trade. "a beautiful man". Although Meggie is a beautiful child with curly red-gold hair. a poor family of ranchers/shearers who uproot from their home in New Zealand to take over Drogheda. and Frank resents the many pregnancies Paddy makes her endure. he has black hair and eyes. capable. he cares for all the Clearys and soon learns to cherish beautiful but forlorn little Meggie. Frank. hoping a hefty enough bequest from her to the Catholic Church might liberate him from his exile. Paddy. reveals she is again pregnant. unlike the other Cleary’s. He is much shorter than his brothers. makes Ralph the centre of her life. Ralph is strikingly handsome. and Fee. often goes to great lengths to see if he can be induced to break his vows. a young.Plot and characters “The Thorn Birds” is the story of the Cleary family. a four-year-old girl living in New Zealand in the early twentieth century. One day. was already eighteen months old when her mortified father married her off to Paddy. now in her forties. she receives little coddling and must struggle to hold her own against her numerous older brothers. the two men quarrel violently and Paddy blurts out the truth about Frank: he is not Paddy's son. in return. Mary Carson.
Ralph finds her crying in the family cemetery and they share a passionate kiss. Mary Carson has also noticed their changing relationship. Mary dies in the night. at first. dies. however. Although her will of record leaves the bulk of her estate to Paddy. She also provides for her disinherited brother. but Ralph refuses her because of his duties as a priest and begs Meggie to find someone to love and marry. As Meggie tends his wounds. James and Patrick (Jims and Patsy). Meggie's beloved little brother. now seventeen and dressed in a beautiful rose-pink evening gown. He sees at once the subtle genius of Mary's plan and. This goes largely unnoticed because Ralph has now been her mentor for several years. later. Meanwhile. Fee later gives birth to twin boys. Paddy and his son Stuart are killed. will know of the new will — forcing him to choose between Meggie and his own ambition. promising him and all his grandchildren a home on Drogheda as long as any of them live. The Clearys learn that Frank has been convicted of murder after killing someone in a fight. as she ripens into womanhood. a diversion from her true financial interests. The lawyer. She also makes sure that after she dies only Ralph. He spends three decades in prison. With Frank gone and Hal dead. but to no avail. making the Roman Catholic Church the main beneficiary and Ralph the executor. she quietly writes a new one. and Ralph soon leaves to begin his rapid advance in the Church. Drogheda is not the centre of her fortune as Ralph and Paddy have long believed but is merely a hobby. he explains that others might not see his attention as innocent. unaware of Paddy and Stu's deaths. At Mary's seventy-second birthday party. Shortly afterward. she tries . Before he leaves. scandalized. Hal. although he weeps and calls her "a disgusting old spider" he takes the new will to her lawyer without delay. The sheer size of Mary's bequest will virtually guarantee Ralph's rapid rise in the church. some begin to question their close relationship. The bequest of thirteen million pounds works its expected magic. In the new will. Ralph duly learns of the new will.when Frank learns that Paddy is not his father. and Stu is killed by a wild boar shortly after finding his father's body. Meggie confesses her love for him. he runs away to become a boxer. Ralph goes to great lengths to avoid Meggie. Mary's wealth is derived from a vast multi-national financial empire worth over thirteen million Pounds (about a$200 million in modern terms). Meggie clings to Ralph more than ever. and from motives of jealousy mingled with Machiavellian cruelty. is on his way to Drogheda and suffers minor injuries when his plane bogs in the mud. including Ralph and Meggie themselves. after the birthday party. but shows little interest in them. she devises a plan to separate Ralph from Meggie by tempting him with his heart's desire: a high place in the Church hierarchy. Ralph. Paddy dies in a lightning fire. the true magnitude of Mary's wealth is finally revealed. urges Ralph to destroy the will.
but mainly because he is not Catholic and wants little to do with religion-her own way of getting back at Ralph. Fee. she must now give back. he fails to recognize that they are father and son. she has little use for anyone else. the Muellers. now a Cardinal. Meggie deliberately thwarts his usual contraception and bears Luke a red-haired daughter. and pities her. None of Meggie's other surviving brothers ever marry. his desire for Meggie makes him a man like other men. He sees Meggie's unhappiness for himself. keenly intelligent girl who loves her brother dearly. There. she gives birth to a beautiful boy whom she names Dane. and joins her for several days. and although he finds himself strangely drawn to the boy. The relationship between Meggie and Fee takes a turn for the better. a new ranch worker named Luke O'Neill begins to court Meggie. She tells Luke what she really thinks of him. decides to separate from Luke. pregnant with Ralph's child. Three years later. Before he leaves. Ralph visits Drogheda after a long absence and meets Dane for the first time. notices Dane's resemblance to Ralph as soon as he is born. He tells her he is saving money to buy a homestead. he appropriates all Meggie's savings and arranges to have her wages paid directly to him. Luke. and returns to Drogheda. to Meggie's dismay. and calmly rebuffs Meggie's overtures of motherly affection. Back home. as he is leaving Australia for Rome. Father Ralph visits Meggie during her difficult labor. a skinflint who regards women as sex objects and prefers the company of men. makes little impression on Luke. who has had experience in such matters. and because of their resemblance people mistake them for uncle and . he has come to say goodbye. and leaves to join a gang of itinerant sugarcane cutters in North Queensland. Justine. but still blinds himself to the fact that the young man is his own son. however. meanwhile. he quickly becomes obsessed with the competitive toil of cane-cutting and has no real intention of giving it up.to seduce him and is rebuffed. to become a priest. Justine proves to be a fractious baby. The new baby. Justine. Ralph remains at Drogheda only long enough to conduct the funerals. She soon realizes her mistake. learns of Meggie's whereabouts from Anne Mueller. and Ralph realizes that despite his ambition to be the perfect priest. Ralph. decides to become an actress and leaves Australia to seek her dream in England. Dane is also unaware of their true relationship. at last. and Meggie. Justine grows into an independent. the lovers consummate their passion. Father Ralph returns to Australia. Although his motives are more mercenary than romantic. leaving him to his cane-cutting. Father Ralph returns to the Church. finds Meggie a live-in job with a kindly couple. After a brief honeymoon. however. Ralph takes great care of him. Hoping to change Luke's ambition and settle him down. Fee tells Meggie that what she stole from God. Dane grows up and decides. however. becomes a mentor to Dane. she marries him because he looks a little bit like Ralph. so the Muellers send Meggie to an isolated island resort for a rest. and Drogheda gradually becomes a place filled with old people.
1915. until Rainer visits Drogheda alone in order to urge Meggie to help him pursue Justine's hand in marriage. are left out of the miniseries. Ralph and Dane encourage the rumor. Little Meggie and Ralph Meggie and Ralph Mary Carson Differences between the novel and the movie 1. is vacationing in Greece. Ralph dies while sitting in a chair with Meggie's head in his lap. 3. he goes swimming one day and dies while rescuing two women from a dangerous current. she is at least aware that animals copulate. although he is often shocked at her sexual adventures and free-wheeling lifestyle. they renew their acquaintance on strictly platonic terms. The most important characters are Meggie. and is on the verge of becoming something more when tragedy strikes. but have no plans to live on Drogheda. which is revealed in her dialogue with Ralph. Ralph dies in Meggie's arms after the funeral. Justine breaks off all communications with Rainer and falls into a depressed. Justine. Hughie and twins Jims and Patsy. While there. In the novel. where Frank eventually dies. The miniseries begins in Australia five years later. Their friendship becomes the most important in her life. recalling the legend of the thorn bird. Meggie is totally ignorant of sexual matters until her wedding and has her own childish idea of how babies are made. The novel begins in New Zealand on December 8. Meggie and Stuart visit Frank in prison. Eventually. Dane. Ralph and Mary. Meggie reveals before Dane's funeral that Dane is Ralph's son. Justine and her brother remain close. In the novel. In the miniseries. 2. who has just become a priest. She befriends Rainer Hartheim.unbeknown to her. a German politician who is a great friend of both Dane and Ralph's . In the corresponding dialogue in the film. no one in the Cleary family sees Frank until he is released from prison after 30 years. 4. he falls deeply in love with her. hum-drum existence. finally accepts her true feelings for Rainer. . They marry. Meggie Cleary's fourth birthday. now the sole surviving grandchild of Fee and Paddy Cleary. not in Meggie's arms as in the novel. Three of Paddy and Fiona's children.nephew.
but the main place is Drogheda. iron will and a loving and affectionate heart. but now there is an area in Australia called Drogheda. who. She is shown to have her father's red hair and her mother's looks. The action begins in 1915 ( 1920 in the miniseries) and ends in 1969. and has trouble with the struggle between love and religion. Like her parents and siblings however. she is a proud and hardworking person with a lot of determination. married with Fiona Cleary. Back then. She belongs to a higher social class than the other characters from Drogheda. in time. who owns Drogheda. Setting The action takes place in different cities and countries all around the world. . a country gentleman. At first. They both appear as old wealthy ladies. Mary is shown as a smart woman. he is shown as a very ambitious and capable priest. When watching the movie we can draw a parallel between Mary Carson and Miss Havisham. because he had insulted a bishop. who knows how to manage most of the situation. is sent at Drogheda. dresses as brides. Ralph de Bricassart is a Catholic priest. but. who suffer because of love. it was a fictional place. Mary Carson is a very rich woman.Meghann Cleary (or Meggie) is the only daughter of Padraic. he becomes weak. which are equally as handsome as that of her mother's as she grows up. She is described as a very pretty tomboy at the start of the story who grows up into a mature and beautiful young woman. an Australian sheep station.
Protestant ministers. Rabbis. Love leads to the suffering of Fee and Meggie and causes Ralph to break his vow of chastity. By making him decide whether to present the will leaving her fortune to the Church (but in his control). and finally their sons. Religion: In any romance. which goes stronger as time goes by. In this book. Shakespeare’s Lucrece speaks to the bird: “against a thorn thy bear’st thy part/ to keep thy sharp woes waking” (Lucrece 1135-36) and Oscar Wilde builds on it in his story “The Nightingale and the Rose”. she forces him to choose between his integrity and his love for Meggie. 3. The title The title refers to the Celtic legend of a bird which searches all its life for a thorn on which it may impale itself. the hero and heroine inevitably encounter obstacles. But a Catholic priest is bound by sacred vow to a life of service to the Church. Lust impales Mary Carson to create the cruel choice Ralph must make. As Ralph says "the best is only bought at the cost of great pain". totally dependent on the goodwill and kindness of first their fathers. women were legally powerless. and probably that’s why the novel is called “The Thorn Birds” not “The Thorn Bird” This motif is a very common one. That act. female characters are tending to become stronger and more competent. Unrequited love: This theme is related to the “religion” theme. She tempts him. on the one hand. for making her marry Luke because she could not marry Ralph. which kills it. etc. than their husbands. There are some other authors who have used this motif in their books. The vow of chastity is one Ralph long struggles with. Orthodox priests can marry. Mary Carson is a very good example. 4. . The woman’s condition in society and family: In that period of time. partly from her first naive belief that he can stop being a priest and partly from the depths of her obsessive love. She deeply resents the Church's requirement for the celibacy of priests and blames the Church for ruining her life. 2. on the other. no stolen kisses. meaning no flirtatious banter. All the major characters suffer. and for each there is some repayment though frequently not enough. and his ambition to rise in the Church. We can see the forbidden love between Ralph and Meggie. repeatedly pushing Meggie aside. Suffering: Related to the theme of suffering is that of love and lust as destructive forces.Themes 1. enables it to sing so beautifully that its song is the loveliest thing in the world.
the rose that Ralph keeps with him is the symbol of love between Meggie and him. Symbols 1. 2. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the list goes on. This color is related to suffering. They must go through fire in order to create the beauty of color. To become ashes. Finally. The scene where Stu kills the wild boar shows a brave child. which can be seen as a fortress against evil. Meggie wears an "ashes of roses" dress at the Mary Carson's seventieth birth. He won a record number of Grammy Awards. There are 48 songs. the wedding with a man whom she's doesn't belong to. . a certain character etc. in 1983. Second of all. Henry Mancini is best known for his songs used in famous movies as “The Pink Panther”. Through suffering and pain beauty is created. the rose garden is the traditional place of love. and at her wedding too. where she feels jealous and also ignored by Ralph. each one used for a certain emotion. roses must burn. Wild Boars: They are the symbol of courage.Soundtrack The soundtrack of “The Thorn Birds” is composed by Henry Mancini. who can defend himself. we can see that the color "ashes of roses" is often used. Roses: First of all.
2. 2007. “The Marriage Bed” by Claudia Dain c. 5. 6. GreenWood Press. inspired by it: a. Cambridge 3. “This Widowed Land” by Kathleen O’Neal Gear Bibliography 1.com www. “Colleen McCullough: a critical companion”. 7. “The Ring and the Book” by Robert Browning b. 1996. www. “A Dictionary of Literary Symbols”.likesbooks.sparknotes. 4.org www.Other literary works Possible inspiration: “The Nightingale and the Rose” by Oscar Wilde Other books published after “The Thorn Birds”.heroesandheartbreakers. Mary Jean DeMarr.com www. Michael Ferber.wikipedia.com .com www.archive.
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