The Oldest Jest by Jennifer Johnston

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The Big Houses of The Old Jest and Good Behaviour were “first of all, big physically, in relation to the modest cottages…from the 18th century on, it was the center of wealth, power, and influence. These Big Houses were normally inhabited by Ascendancy families, Anglo-Irish blood, and Anglican faith” (Mortimer 209). In The Big House in Ireland, Seán O’Faoláin’s statement towards the Ascendancy sums up the attitude of this society “Ireland was their country, Ireland was never their nation…they were far removed from their fellow countrymen in political loyalty, religion, and education…their way of life and social outlook seemed to belong to another world” (Mortimer 209) and that world was Great Britain. O’Faoláin here describes how the characters in Good Behaviour lived while in The Old Jest describes the characters living closer to the people in the village and surrounding community. Keane and Johnston took radical opposite points of view in writing about the decline of the Big House both bringing aspect of their personal lives into the novels to be a type of biographical perspective of 1920’s Ireland. O’Faoláin makes the distinction between Johnston and Keane with the following “[a]lthough Jennifer Johnston is not a daughter of the Big House, in the sense that Molly Keane maybe thus classified, she is closely linked to this world through family connections, friends, and personal tastes” (Mortimer 209). Yet each takes a different route to orient the reader to the realism

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