Foster by Claire Keegan

‘Foster’ by Claire Keegan

Junior Certificate English

Quick Notes

© 2017

Table of Contents

Context 3

Outline 3

Characters 4

Descriptions 4

The Girl 4

John Kinsella 4

Edna Kinsella 4

Dan 4

The Girl’s mother 4

Symbols 4

The young boy’s room 4

The weeping mattress 4

The well 4

The lost heifer 5

The scenery of the walk 5

The three lights 5

Themes 5

Family 5

A Sense of Belonging 5

The Home 5

Class 6

Secrets 6

Important Moments 6

Key Moments 6

Moments of great emotional power 6

Language 7

Important Quotations 7

1. 7

2. 7


Foster is a "long short story." It was published in The New Yorker, and in expanded form as a stand-alone book by Faber and Faber. Claire Keegan has also published two collections of short stories with Faber, Antarctica (1999), and Walk the Blue Fields (2007).

Set in rural Wexford, ‘Foster’ is narrated by a young girl who is fostered out to another family, the Kinsellas, by her father, for the summer months. They are kind and caring, giving the girl the space to develop and feel valued. It is a coming-of-age story and one that illuminates the contrasting lives of the families, one struggling and overcrowded, the other contented but childless, the rural community that they live in and, by extension, Ireland itself.

Blessedly, Keegan's Ireland is not the familiar land of misery, abuse and constant drizzle, but a place of community, common decency and, most surprising of all, sunshine.

"For me, the fact that the story unfolds in summer was primarily a practical matter. For her to go away, it would have to be a summer. I made it hot because, given that it is so long since we've had [a hot summer] it was pleasurable to write about, but because it also deepened the happiness of the summer."

Though it seems, in its depiction of the slow rhythms of rural life, to take place in a much older Ireland, ‘Foster’ is set in 1981. The reader only finds this out when Kinsella tells his wife, in passing, of a news report about the death of an IRA hunger striker. It is an arresting moment, on...

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