Study Guide

Brooklyn: A Novel Memory and the Past

By Colm Tóibín

Memory and the Past

Before Instagram, before Facebook, and even before everyone had Polaroids, all you had to remember your loved ones by were, well, memories. Eilis Lacey knows this well. After leaving her small town in Ireland for the hustle-and-bustle of big city Brooklyn, Eilis struggles with feelings of homesickness whenever she dwells too long on her memories. So how does she cope? It's actually pretty simple: making new memories. As it happens, however, that's a lot easier said than done, and Eilis' struggles in Brooklyn teach us a great deal about the nature of memory.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Is Eilis a nostalgic person? Why or why not?
  2. How does Eilis' perception of something change once it's in her past?
  3. How are letters related to memories in the novel?
  4. Are Eilis' memories of Ireland accurate? Explain your answer.

Chew on This

Eilis has a hard time holding on to her emotions towards something if it's not in her immediate present, which is proven both when she first comes to Brooklyn and when she returns to Ireland.

Eilis is less interested in the letters from her family because of their content than the fact that they make her think about her memories.

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