‘Michael Collins as the Epitome’
Often, themes within a novel are a reflection of its author’s background and life experiences: in essence, pieces of the author naturally slip onto the page, because it is easier to write about situations one is familiar with than about the unfamiliar. Accordingly, the works of authors from the same origin and/or time period tend to share similar themes. This holds true for Irish and British literature, in which the themes of love, loss, and community are most pivotal, as well as in film. An Irishman himself and one very familiar with his country’s history, director Neil Jordan implements these three themes in Michael Collins, a historical, biographical movie named after the main character. Love, loss, and community colored the life of this Irish revolutionary leader; the film emphasizes this, in turn, making Michael Collins the man a living example and the epitome of what it means to be Irish and British.
Love was present in various areas of Collins’s life. As a result of the Easter Rising 1916, Britain ruled Ireland, and in the following years a select group of Irishmen became executives within the Irish Republican Army. These men made the strongest efforts in the war of independence from Britain, and Michael Collins was one. The film clearly portrays his love for Ireland, which gives him the self-motivation to lead and confidently motivate others to do whatever it takes to fight for their homeland. “I’ll make a fucking army out of you if it’s the last thing I do,” he exclaims. Doing whatever it takes means murder and violence. Even though history portrays Collins as a hateful terrorist, he was not in favor of resorting to these measures: “I hate them for making hate necessary and giving us no way out,” he reasons. In addition to his passion for Ireland, Collins experienced love in personal relationships, particularly those with Kitty and Harry Boland. The love triangle between the three characters seems to have tension at times; both Collins and Boland are fully aware that they are in love with the same girl. Initially, Boland has the majority of Kitty’s heart, and viewers see the jealousy in Collins, but the tables turn when Boland leaves for a year. Collins finally has Kitty to himself for a year, and in that time their love strengthens. Collins sacrifices friendship for love, and the friendship is never the same, which was bound to happen.
The film prepares viewers to expect this, yet it is still very significant because it is a huge loss for Collins. Ultimately the romantic competitiveness destroys their friendship completely. It is perhaps the most regrettable loss to Collins, but it is not the only one. He continues to endure loss as the film progresses, making it one of the central themes. When Collins is sent to negotiate a treaty with the British, he settles for the best possible deal which is to recognize Ireland as a free state but not a republic, meaning Ireland is still under British political rule. Moreover, the treaty forces Ireland to give up the north and divides the country. Collins believes this is a positive first step and will prevent future violence, but he knows this news will not settle well with his coworkers and returns to Ireland with a very heavy weight on his shoulders: “If the price of freedom/peace is the blackening of my name, I’ll gladly pay it.” De Valera, the president of the Irish Republic, becomes outraged and refuses to accept the treaty’s terms. He forms an anti-treaty group, thus causing a divide between himself and Collins and the rest Ireland’s citizens, who are either pro or anti treaty. With this divide, Collins also loses his fame as a revolutionary leader and is considered a traitor by many. This conflict among Irish citizens leads to the Irish Civil War. The country never experiences a stable time of peace they so strongly anticipated. Unfortunately, loss does not stop here for Collins. As a member of the anti-treaty group,