Francis Phelan In William Kennedy's Ironweed

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The character of Francis Phelan in Ironweed by William Kennedy is haunted from decisions from his past. Many could argue that his thought processes of these actions are moral, while others believe they are instinctual. For example, the situation in which Francis killed Harold Allen, the scab. It could have been a conscious moral decision that taking the scabs life was the best way to protest or it could have been the subconscious natural instinct that told him to lift his arm and throw the stone. It is believable that Francis is controlled by his moral compass, which affects his actions (such as throwing the stone) throughout the book and demonstrates his caring personality and eye for justice because of his religious upbringing. While Francis…show more content…
An article written Christopher Craig by called “’Nobody’s a bum all their life’: Teaching the Class Through William Kennedy’s Ironweed” suggests that “Francis does not make his personal decisions in a moral vacuum. Capitalist interest set the terms and conditions for these choices” (32). Disagreeably, I think his decisions are completely made in such “moral vacuum”, because of the religious family he was in when he was growing up. Doing “the right thing” and Catholicism go hand in hand. Francis follows this pattern, thinking that because he’d done something wrong (leaving his family), he does not deserve to go back home. He reasons that staying away would be the best, and further, the right thing to do. Francis seems to have a judgmental eye as well, determining that the person who hit his friend, Rudy, in the head should also be prosecuted. Francis delivers a blow to the man. Most likely, the blow led to the raider’s death. While many may not consider this to be a just action, Francis judges it as one and perhaps even enjoys giving the raider death as a punishment. He describes watching the grotesquely breathless beaten man fall to the ground as “Orgasmic pleasure”
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