The Nineteenth Century Irish Struggle

Posted: February 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

I truly enjoyed the Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York. I liked what Scorsese did for the most part, because the book itself is such a large and encompassing story that there is no way that it could be shot as a feature film in length. Also, at the same time, one needs to remember this movie was made to make money not to be completely historically accurate. The time line for the movie itself was off and put characters in places they couldn’t have been in real life, such as Bill the Butcher being in the draft riots when he died in 1855. (But his quote on his deathbed in real life was the same as Bill the Butcher in the movie) Although there was some dramatic license used, it did do a good job though of representing the conditions of the times. It was cool to see most of the major gangs from the book represented in the movie. The rivalry between not only gangs but Fire Brigades as well helped to set the scene. The depictions of the more notorious characters as well, such as Bill Cutting (based on William Poole) and Hell Cat Maggie, were a good touch to round out the overall criminal element in the five points of the time.

The political atmosphere of the time was captured well by the portraying of the corrupt Tammany hall figures. The theme in this picture was not only the revenge aspect, which is very apparent in the Amsterdam Vallon/Bill Cutting relationship, but as well it was the struggle of the Irish to be accepted in this new land. “Your father tried to carve out a corner of this land for his tribe”, was a line that “Monk” McGinn told Amsterdam. That really made me think of the reading I chose for the week.

I chose to read The Most Irish City in the Union by Hasia R. Diner. In this piece the struggle of the Irish is told in a very factual way, but parallels many of the same issues seen in Gangs of New York, most notably prejudice amongst the Protestant communities in New York against the Catholic Irish. From organizations such as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner picking fights in Irish neighborhoods to Protestant Irish fighting their Catholic countrymen, the Irish in general had a very rough time as portrayed in both the movie as well as the reading, although Diner portrayed it in a much more academic way.  


  1. jguerrero321 says:

    I like that you came right out and said it was for money, but I did some research and it seems that even though he started off as a poor film director, by the time he did Gangs of New York he had already become wealthy. And most of his works is on New York. Think that might be a good motive too?

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