You can know someone's religion without the specific word


After reading the obituary, the most important part that stood out to me was Marie Byrne's religious background. The profile did not list whether she was Catholic or Methodist, but simply wrote the name of her church. This is a great way to express her religion because you’re not saying something that she was not, but rather a building that she belonged to. The readers can quickly determine what religion she was by reading what church she attended.

At first, I did not realize that she was Irish Catholic. I did not put the two together until I read the side note by Scanlan.

Did you, at first, realize that she was Irish Catholic?

Another great technique is when Scanlan said "Uncle Mary" (70). This was interesting because it showed how the family talked to her and how they got along. This phrase also shows how the family was close to Marie.

Click here for some more obituaries.


Derek, I thought the “Uncle Mary” selection was also good on Nicholson’s part. It’s the little details like that which make someone seem real. She’s not just someone named Marie Byrne, but she’s “Uncle Mary” to her family. She’s a real person who had a real job at Tastykake, who was proud of her Irish heritage, and cared about her kids. Furthermore, I think this is the only obituary I’ve ever read with actual quotes from other people in it and this helps to really make Marie Byrne seem real. After hearing comments from her loved ones it helps bring home the fact that she was someone’s family and that even if we didn’t know her, we can feel her family’s loss.

It seemed to me that Byrne's Irish heritage was pretty prominent throughout the piece; I didn't immediately know how religious she was until the detail about sending her children to parochial school came up. It seems like Nicholson was tapping into a culture that many of his readers would be familiar with in mentioning that she was Irish Catholic. The stereotypical image of them being big-hearted and devoutly religious isn't overdone, but it definitely is an image that Marie Byrne fits into. I think this helps the reader identify with the piece more and relate it to people they may know in their own life.

It's definitely a case of show vs tell, when the information about her religion is listed, and we're left to come to the conclusion that she was religious.

I also liked the "Uncle Mary" detail. It made Marie seem more real. It was all of these details within the article that made it stand out.

Question for all: Would you have used the phrase "Uncle Mary" or would you have written something different?

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on September 2, 2009 6:12 PM.

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