"Mrs. Byrne" "Mother" Brian, make up your mind...

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..."she wouldn't be soft on anybody," recalled Brian Byrne, a son. "They would get whacked by Mrs. Byrne, too..."

Brian said that if he or any of the other kids got into trouble at parochial school and got thrashed by the nuns, "mother would give me another beating for making the nuns upset."

--Clark and Scanlan, pg 70-71

Okay, this may just be a personal style issue, but did any one else notice that these two quotes were provided by the same person--Marie Byrne's son--and in the two quotes, he uses a different name for his mother? At first mention, he calls her "Mrs. Byrne"?? Why? As I was reading this obit, this practically jumped off the page at me. I had to reread the paragraph, because I thought that maybe Brian wasn't her son, but just one of the many runaways she took in over the years, but that's not the case, unless he's Marie's good friend "Uncle Mary"'s son, since they both had the same last name. This really confused me.

At first I thought that maybe it was just his way of showing extra respect for her--or maybe it was an enforcer for just how strict she was. But I can't see very many people forcing their children to address them as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so.

Later in the story, Brian refers to her as "mother." I just don't get it. I know this isn't a "news" article, but you'd think the author of this obit would have given parallelism a thought. The book even points other examples of good parallelism. But hey, maybe this is just me being to criticizing. I have that tendency from my days as a copy editor for my high school paper. It's not like the author couldn't have put "[mother]" or [mom] instead of "Mrs. Byrne."

Then I thought that maybe the son and his mother had a falling out of sorts, but later in the story, he seems to speak of her fondly, even if she was beating him for upsetting the nuns. For me, this lack of congruency totally ruined the story for me...

I dunno, maybe it's just me, but for some reason, that REALLY irked me...

For more thoughts, Click Here.

2 Comments

I think Brian calls her "Mrs. Byrne" in the quote you mentioned because he's speaking from the rhetorical perspective of the neighborhood runaways who would have called her "Mrs. Byrne." I do agree that it is confusing, though. Especially because they call Brian "a son" instead of "her son", which also seems to distance him from Marie Byrne, taking into consideration the fact that she was a surrogate mother to a lot of the neighborhood children. Perhaps putting 'Mrs. Byrne' in single quotes like that would have helped illustrate the effect of him speaking from a different viewpoint. I think Nicholson was basically trying to establish the idea of her being a mother to the whole neighborhood and that everybody knew "Mrs. Byrne." Still, perhaps it would have been better to switch the two quotes about beatings so you get a stronger sense of the mother-son relationship between Brian and his mom earlier on in the story.

Jessie Author Profile Page said:

Well, I understand why the author used "a son" instead of "her son..." That's a basic journalism rule. For example, if you're talking about a kid on campus you might say, "said Jessie Krehlik, a sophomore." Either that or you can say "Sophomore Jessie...." Anyway, I think it just threw me off because I just felt like it didn't really flow with the rest of the article. I think I'm just over analyzing or something. It really is a style preference, I think, and I'm just really picky...

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