Danielstown is the fictional Big House in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September where Sir Richard Naylor, Myra Naylor, and their niece Lois Farquar reside. Throughout the duration of the novel they receive various visitors. The older generations in this book do not appear to want to do anything about their current situation, choosing instead to continue pursuing the frivolous–hosting tennis parties, throwing lavish dinners, and never talking about the problem in a way that would lend itself to solutions. The younger generation however are not content with their current situation and constantly try to get to the heart of the problem. Lois’s cousin Laurence, brings up the inevitability of the burning of the Naylor household, and even says he would like to be there when it burns down. Lois does not feel anything in particular for this house as it only served as an empty attempt at being ‘home’.
In the novel, Bowen notes, “Sir Richard and Lady Naylor, their nephew, niece and old friends had a thin, over-bright look, seemed in the air of the room unconvincingly painted, startled, transitory” (Bowen 28). The whole gathering of guests and dining at these parties isn’t enough, for anyone really, and they all don’t feel permanent in this house–this lifestyle. The Ascendency is merely a facade trying to cover the liminality so many Anglo-Irish felt. This helped contribute to how easily the Ascendency crumbled with the threat of fire, even after so many years of being around.
This novel shows the inevitable decline of the Big House lifestyle, after Danielstown, and many other are burned down. The burning of these Big Houses symbolized an end to the Ascendency lifestyle that had been around since the 17th century. Landlords of these homes were isolated from the rest of the countrymen and owned large portions of the land. This did not sit well with the people who were not in the Anglo-Irish social class. They felt as though these Big Houses served as symbols of their oppression and poverty so began destroying them in earnest. Others still, burned these houses down with military precision, allowing them to be casualties of the war going on around them. Fire was a means of an end, the end of the houses, and the end of the rule of the oppressive English on the land.
Although Danielstown is fictional, the events that occurred in the novel weren’t that far from reality. Danielstown was an actualization of the fears so many people had about the decline of their lifestyle, and further served as a symbol of the ultimate downfall of the Big Houses.
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