Literary Genre in Foster

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Literary Genre in Foster

I agree with this statement. Literary Genre is the term used to describe the techniques used by an author to tell a story in a compelling, intriguing way. Many examples of these techniques can be found in Claire Keegan’s novel, Foster, all of which I intend to discuss in this essay.

Set on a farm in Wexford during summer, Foster does not include much historical setting apart from a small, fleeting reference to the hunger strikes of the 1980s, used not as a plot point but rather to set an approximate timescale for the events in the book. This shows that, rather than being based on historical events, Foster is instead about social realism, showing an accurate portrayal of the people of the time, which, in my opinion making the story more compelling to a reader than a plot that is entirely fiction.

Another method of Literary Genre used by Keegan in Foster is the use of first person narrative. The entire story is told through the eyes of the protagonist, a young girl who is being sent to live with her relatives, the Kinsellas, for the summer. This rather unique perspective allows a reader to feel great empathy for the girl, who we learn has been neglected by her family for most of her life. This lonely, foreboding upbringing has made her constantly anxious, and this makes her nourishment by the Kinsellas even more satisfying for a reader, and by the end of the novel, the contrast between her previous naive, anxious self and her as a result of this nourishment is vast, creating a compelling, heartwarming account of the girl’s evolution that is very interesting and compelling to read.

Also, the plot of Foster is told in chronological order. A common trend among authors is to use flashback methods to convey their story, but this is absent here, with the story being told in a way that is neither convoluted or confusing. This, along with the previously mentioned first person narrative, allows a reader to see the evolution of the characters at a realistic, smooth pace.

In the case of Foster, even the title contributes to the overall storytelling of the narrative. The word ‘foster’ has two different meanings: firstly, ‘to raise a child that is not your own’. This applies to the plot of the novel, as that is what the Kinsellas do in the novel, however, there is another, less used definition of ‘foster’, and that is ‘to encourage the development of (something good)’. Showing that, as well as fostering the girl in the traditional sense, the Kinsellas have nurtured, or ‘fostered’ an intense, warm sort of love in her that her parents had not.

Adding to the compelling storytelling of Foster, Keegan uses colloquial language, the everyday, conversational dialect of rural Irish people, to convey social realism. Phrases such as “What’s ailing you” and the use of words like ‘ye’ show the casual, relaxed atmosphere of the Kinsellas home in a way that adds to the characters of Mr and Mrs Kinsella, making them believable and relatable simply through dialogue. Also, throughout the story, the girl is never referred to by name, instead being called multiple ‘pet names’ such as ‘Leanbh’,which is the Irish for baby and ‘Long Legs’, by Mr and Mrs Kinsella, possibly to avoid becoming emotionally attached and dependant on the girl despite her inevitable departure from their lives.

There is a significant lack of information given to a reader at the beginning of this novel. This creates an air of mystery that compels a reader to continue reading, searching for the answers they crave. For example, the above-mentioned girl’s name. In the average book, the protagonist is usually named within at least the first chapter, and for it to be absent from an entire novel is, in my opinion, slightly unnerving. Also, the timescale of the girl’s fosterage is not given. We know it cannot be permanent, but not knowing exactly when it will be over creates a sort of tension between the characters themselves, not wanting to get too dependant on each other because of their eventual separation. This tension creates a similar amount of tension in a reader, compelling them to read on.

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