Poverty is a major problem around the world. The issues of hunger and poverty are struggles that almost every character faces in Hunger: A Tale of Courage. In the novel, a potato blight causes the crop to fail and leads to extreme hunger for the Irish. This problem is heightened by the fact that the English do not help and still tax them to keep their home. This main issue starts a domino effect and causes many others to appear. This novel shows what may happen if nothing is done to lessen poverty today and the similar experiences impoverished people today face.
One of the major struggles for every Irish family in the novel is to decide how much food a person should get. This decision is extremely hard to make for parents who love their children. If their children do not get enough food, then they will see their children slowly suffer in agony from hunger. However, if they do not get enough food, then supporting their children will be near impossible. Another struggle of families is to decide where and how to get food in the first place. This is heightened by the wheat tax every family has to pay to keep their home. Searching for berries, herbs, and whatnot expends precious energy and finding food is not guaranteed. So, many families have to eat the same dish for many months. And for Lorraine’s family, they ate a thin and watery kale gruel every day. These two struggles are prominent in both impoverished and low-income families today. Globally, one of the major factors of poverty is not having an adequate supply of food and/or clean water.
In the novel, Lorraine finds an English girl named Miss Sussana having a grandiose picnic with her dolls. Miss Sussana asks Lorraine to have a meal with her because of her loneliness from only being around her dolls and her urge to have a conversation. This event starts one of the most interesting struggles in the novel to me which is Lorraine’s internal conflict on whether to eat Miss Susanna’s food or not. I find this interesting because Lorraine has a chance to finally have a good fulfilling meal, but hesitates on whether it is just to eat. She thinks this because she thinks it is unfair for her to be the only one to be full. After her mouth waters from the food set in front of her, she gives in and eats until full. This causes her to feel guilty about her actions. Her guilt prompts her to ask Miss Susanna if she can bring anyone else for the feast. She defiantly states that she will tell her dad and make him sic the dogs on Lorraine if she brings anyone but herself. This event has caused Lorraine to have a full belly, yet feel guilty for her choice. Today still, many people may feel guilt from taking advantage of certain situations even if it may benefit them like stealing or taking advantage of someone’s kindness.
Another conflict I find interesting is when a thin man with three naked children goes to Lorraine’s house and begs her family for food. When the strangers ask Ma to be able to come inside her home, she refuses initially because of the fear that they might hurt her. However, she gives in as to not upset them. This shows that the problem of hunger has gotten so out of hand that she fears that crime is becoming increasingly prevalent with the lack of food and that there are people worse off than her family. Usually, there tends to be a higher rate of crime when people are desperate.
These issues have all stemmed from the initial problem of the blight. If nothing is done to help combat the issue of poverty, many more people today could go through similar experiences with what the characters have faced in dealing with poverty.
Napoli, Donna Jo. Hunger: A Tale of Courage.New York. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2018. Print.
Mokyr, Joel.”Great Famine.” Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/event/Great-Famine-Irish-history
“Effects of Poverty on Society, Health, Children and Violence.” Poverties. 7 Mar. 2011, https://www.poverties.org/blog/effects-of-poverty
“The Top 9 Causes of Global Poverty.” Concern Worldwide US. 4 Feb. 2019, https://www.concernusa.org/story/top-9-causes-global-poverty/
Poverty and the Blight by Owen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.