Colm Toibin's Brooklyn

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Eilis Lacey and Her Search for Home Fulfillment:

Eilis Lacey is the primary protagonist in the narrative. She is an immigrant from Ireland who arrived in America in the 1950s. As she tries to settle into her new home, Colm Toibin illustrates her difficulties and homesickness. Despite her wish to relocate, Eilis' connection with the idea of home evolves as she becomes aware of the emotional and physical costs of having to split her time between two locations. Toibin appears to have utilized the concept of "home" to symbolize conflicted and ambivalent allegiances. Even before her sister, Father Flood, and the mother of the Lacey family decided her fate, Eilis had a nagging suspicion that something was wrong with her hometown. According to the depiction, Eilis lacked complete fulfillment that seems to have followed her all through her journey to America. This paper seeks to illustrate Eilis journey and the issues she had to face in her search for a 'home' fulfillment.


In the journey to Brooklyn, Eilis changes from being a nervous and nerdy girl to a confident young woman. There are numerous unforeseen accidents and unplanned detours along the way. She is introduced to the story when she was young and trying to deal with her overbearing mother. Mrs. Lacey was always making Eilis feel like a child especially when the doctor visits their home. Her sister Rose tries to help her deal with this. However, there stood a risk in that given that through the help from the sister, Eilis did not deal her mother and therefore did not grow up or matured. The journey to America would then present her with an opportunity to grow up first; Rose also played a major role in this.

At First, Eilis' Terrified Journey:

At first, Eilis was terrified with the idea of traveling away from a place she had known as home. Before the journey, she had never had a chance to make any kind of decisions. When she began exercising this, she became excited about her new life. She actually begins to adopt new characteristics and behavior such as the way she spoke. She was imitating the tone of a mature woman like Rose's. She had just set off on the path to adulthood unknowingly.

Architectural Journey:

Eilis new life in Brooklyn is full of emotional anxiety and turmoil. She is disconnected from her family and she feels like she is losing herself in a foreign land. Her entire experience in her new home is characterized by feelings of nostalgia and a sense of loss as she is constantly reminiscing. Eilis is also plagued with hatred towards her new house. She was homesick and facing a hard time adapting to her new environment. Father Flood advised her that her conditions would eventually pass and that feelings of homesickness only represented her expectation of sadness.

Reinforcing Emotional Conflict through Setting:

Toibin uses the story's setting to reinforce the sense of absence and emotional conflict faced by Eilis in Brooklyn. For instance, the room portrays un-homeliness and makeshift. He actually refers to it as a 'tomb'. Living in the house, Eilis feels like a ghost making her remember the warmth and security of their house back home. Typically, the house is used to depict her 'ghostlike' and insubstantial existence. She could not find anyone familiar to connect with. Nothing she came across could compare to her house in Fairy Street back in Ireland. Eilis held the thought that her former life was forever lost to her. According to her, compared to her former life, the new life was unsubstantial and inconsequential. Her loneliness emotional instability leads her to remember the death of her father. She had become hopeless and felt like she had lost everything that held significance to her. Home became a state of mind whereby Eilis felt like she was shut away and trapped in a place she compares to hell. During the time setting of the story, Brooklyn was already an urban center. The buildings were not as bad as Eilis brought it out to be. The house was only 'ghostlike' because of the emotional and psychological troubles that she was undergoing.

Depiction of Work Environment:

Another structure that is referred to in the story is Eilis' workplace, Bartoccis. It is described as a formidable place that hosted sellers and Eilis considered it the hottest and busiest place she had ever been. The place was characterized by chaotic, frantic, and loud business that left her exhausted and uneasy. These circumstances also make her to flashback to an occasion in Enniscorthy where she was with her mother. The description of this scene explains the business structures of the time. They seem to have been small structures that led to overcrowding and poor ventilation.

Overcoming Sadness through Familiarity:

Toibin seems to suggest that subtle personal relationships and sensitive feelings are what made Eilis have such a bad depiction of her newfound home. This brings about the idea that familiarity can help one to overcome sadness. A new visitor like the protagonist of the story saw everything in bad light. Once he met people such as Tony she gets to visit different places like the Brooklyn Dodgers Field. The more she got exposed to the place, the more she became involved in the American culture. She began to visit other places such as cinemas and the Coney Island. With this, she realizes the beauty of the city and culture of the people. Eilis enjoys spending time with Tony, and they agree to build a much better plan from the ground-up. The block of land on Long Island is used to symbolize an opportunity for the two to start a new life. They describe their dream house to be one that had a garden and nestled on a block surrounded by family (Tóibín, 195). This particular statement also shows the people's preferences for their home structures.


Eilis' journey into America was one of self-realization. As a new visitor, Brooklyn including its architecture did not make any sense. In fact, the change of scenery had made her emotionally unstable. Eilis faced a difficult time holding on to her emotions towards anything that was right in front of her. The reader's view of the architecture and other features is through her eyes. The moment she decided to open her eyes, the reader could then learn of the beauty of Brooklyn and the extent of its culture.

Work Cited

Tóibín, Colm. Brooklyn: A Novel. Simon and Schuster, 2009.

March 17, 2023



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