Moreover, he argues that ‘nationalism is an ideological movement for attaining and maintaining the autonomy, unity and identity of a nation’2. It is this concept of ‘sameness’ and belonging which unifies us individuals to have a sense of pride attached to our country. This issue of national identity is one which is distinct within Welsh Anglo-Saxon writer R.S. Thomas’ Collected Poetry and Irish writer Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. It is interesting to compare the confused identity of Thomas, who was born in Cardiff yet spoke English as a child, to a dominant Irish figure such as Doyle who was born and bred in Ireland, and hence feels justified in glorifying his own country. He does this by using Gaelic phrases in order to present it in a more idealised category compared to the other cultures. Doyle too betrays anguish in his own culture as he presents the underlying woes within an Irish household being those of violence which was common in the 1960’s when the book was written. Nevertheless, one notes a sense of pride and belonging in Doyle, whereas Thomas is still searching in order “to be able to return to the true Wales of my imagination”3. In this essay, I will explore issues of language, place and national identity that are manifest within Thomas’ Collected poems and Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.
R.S. Thomas focuses on Wales as his own national identity. For example, in A Welsh Testament, he writes, ‘All right, I was Welsh. Does it matter? I spoke the tongue that was passed on to me in the place I happened to be’4. We find Thomas telling us that although he speaks English, he is unable to speak his ‘mother tongue’, which he believes to be Welsh. There is a defensive hue in his words, as though he is trying to justify his inability to speak their language. This speaks of an anguish in him resulting from not having a full sense of belonging. In the poem