Milkman Themes & Motifs

Anna Burns
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Conformity

The town in which Young Woman lives is heavily characterized by socially enforced conformity, and by demonstrating the restrictiveness and dysfunction of this conformity, the narrative promotes ethics of individuality and personal freedom. The novel is set in Ireland in the 1970s, a time and place that are heavily associated with strict social rules and the unyielding dictates of Catholicism. Young Woman receives pressure to conform, both within and outside of her home, even when the requisites of conformity are deeply unappealing to her. For example, Young Woman states in narration, “Since my sixteenth birthday two years earlier ma had tormented herself and me because I was not married” (45). Young Woman does not want to follow the social norm of marrying and having children as soon as possible, and she therefore faces adversity within her own home. The novel thereby establishes, early in the story, the...

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This section contains 2,229 words
(approx. 6 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Milkman Study Guide
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