The Butcher Boy
The Butcher Boy is a 1992 novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by Patrick McCabe. It was shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize and won the 1992 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Fiction.

The Butcher Boy is set in a small town in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 in the late 1950s. It tells the story of Francis 'Francie' Brady, a schoolboy who retreats into a violent fantasy world
Fantasy (psychology)
Fantasy in a psychological sense is broadly used to cover two different senses, conscious and unconscious. In the unconscious sense, it is sometimes spelled "phantasy".-Conscious fantasy:...

 as his troubled home life collapses.

Francie's family

In the early part of the book it becomes apparent that Francie's mother is frequently abused
Domestic violence
Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, and intimate partner violence , is broadly defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors by one or both partners in an intimate relationship such as marriage, dating, family, or cohabitation...

 both verbally and physically by her husband, Benny, a bitter alcoholic. Francie's mother often considers suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 and is committed for a time to a mental hospital
Mental Hospital
Mental hospital may refer to:*Psychiatric hospital*hospital in Nepal named Mental Hospital...


The Nugents

Francie seems largely unaware of the trouble at home, and spends the early part of the book in the company of his best friend Joe Purcell, hiding out in a chicken-house and shouting abuse at the fish in the local stream. The two befriend classmate Phillip Nugent, the son of Francie's sanctimonious neighbor, Mrs. Nugent, but end up stealing his comic books. Francie recalls vividly an episode in which she hurls a torrent of verbal abuse at Francie's mother, claiming that the Brady family are 'a bunch of pigs.' Francie takes this insult to heart, and begins to harass the Nugents when they are walking through the town, denying them access through a certain street until they pay the fictional 'Pig Toll tax'. So begins an unhealthy obsession that underpins the rest of the novel.


Word comes that Francie's uncle Alo, who is something of a local celebrity, is coming to town. A party is arranged and most of the town turns up. Alo arrives and sings with his guests late into the night, and Francie observes his uncle with admiration. Eventually the guests leave, and Benny, drunk as usual, launches a verbal assault at his brother, claiming he is a fake and a liar, to the protestation and horror of Francie's mother. Alo is totally dejected and leaves.

Francie is horrified at the treatment of Alo, and runs away from home. He spends some time thieving in Dublin, and when he returns he discovers his mother has committed suicide, for which his father blames him. Again, Francie's mind turns to the Nugents. He attempts to harm Phillip after luring him to the chickenhouse, but Joe stops him. Eventually he breaks into the Nugent's house when they are out and pretends to be a pig, defecating on the floor of the Nugent's house. The Nugents interrupt him and call the police.


Francie is sent to an 'industrial school' run by priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

s. During the course of his internment he is molested by one of the priests and befriended by a gardener who claims to have been an Old IRA member and close associate of Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

. He claims to have forgotten all about the Nugents, and is determined to get back to town and resume his carefree friendship with Joe.

On release Francie heads back to town, fully expectant of a friendly welcome by Joe. However he finds it hard to get in touch with his friend, and when he does Joe is reluctant to talk to him. When Francie is attacked by Mrs. Nugent's brother, Buttsy, and his friend Devlin, Joe disowns him.

Death of Benny

Francie gets a job in the local abattoir, impressing the owner with his ability to unflinchingly kill a piglet, and dedicates himself to this job, aiming to make his father proud. He has also begun drinking at weekends with local drunk Sean Fleury, and he goes to clubs with the specific aim of getting into fights. After some months, the police enter his home to discover that his father has been dead for a long time, and Francie is committed to a mental hospital.

After he is released, Francie discovers that Joe Purcell is attending boarding school in Bundoran
Bundoran is a town in County Donegal, part of the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland. The town is located on the N15 road near Ballyshannon, 3 hours drive from Dublin and around two and a quarter hours drive from Belfast...

 in Donegal
Donegal or Donegal Town is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. Its name, which was historically written in English as Dunnagall or Dunagall, translates from Irish as "stronghold of the foreigners" ....

. He decides to go there, and en route he stops off at a boarding house where his father had said he and Francie's mother had spent their honeymoon in bliss. He interrogates the landlady, and she informs him that his father had treated his mother terribly for the duration of their honeymoon. Francie resumes his travels and arrives at Joe's school in the middle of the night. He breaks in and, coming face to face with Joe, discovers that his friend has outgrown him and, worse, befriended Phillip Nugent.


Francie returns home and resumes his job at the butchers. One day, while on his rounds, he calls at the Nugents' house. Mrs. Nugent answers and Francie forces his way in. He attacks her and shoots her in the head with the butcher's bolt gun
Captive bolt pistol
A captive bolt pistol is a device used for stunning animals prior to slaughter....

. He cuts her open and writes the word 'PIG' over the walls in an upstairs room with her blood. He puts her into the cart in which he transports the offal
Offal , also called, especially in the United States, variety meats or organ meats, refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal. The word does not refer to a particular list of edible organs, which varies by culture and region, but includes most internal organs other than...

 and meat-waste, covering her body with the detritus. He casually resumes his rounds and makes his way back to the abattoir, where he is apprehended by the police. He leads them on a wild goose chase for Mrs. Nugent's body, and escapes from them for a time, but he is recaptured and eventually imprisoned after revealing where her dismembered corpse is.


The novel is written in a hybrid of first-person narrative and stream of consciousness, with little punctuation and no separation of dialogue and thought.

Film adaptation

The book was adapted into a feature film directed by Neil Jordan
Neil Jordan
Neil Patrick Jordan is an Irish filmmaker and novelist. He won an Academy Award for The Crying Game.- Early life :...

 in 1997. It starred Eamonn Owens as Francie, Stephen Rea
Stephen Rea
Stephen Rea is an Irish film and stage actor. Rea has appeared in high profile films such as V for Vendetta, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire and Breakfast on Pluto...

 as Benny and Fiona Shaw
Fiona Shaw
Fiona Shaw, CBE is an Irish actress and theatre director. Although to international audiences she is probably most familiar for her minor role as Petunia Dursley in the Harry Potter films, she is an accomplished classical actress...

 as Mrs. Nugent. The film was released on DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 on February 13, 2007.

The film won the Silver Berlin Bear award for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival in 1998 and a Special Mention for Owens' "astonishing lead". It also won the European Film Award for Best Cinematographer for Adrian Biddle.

The adaptation is mostly faithful to the novel, but there are some differences, the principal change being the ending. In the book, Francie is not seen to leave prison, and attempts to forge a friendship with an inmate similar to the one he had with Joe. In the film, a much older Francie is released from prison at the end to be brought to a halfway house
Halfway house
The purpose of a halfway house, also called a recovery house or sober house, is generally to allow people to begin the process of reintegration with society, while still providing monitoring and support; this is generally believed to reduce the risk of recidivism or relapse when compared to a...

. He picks a snowdrop
Galanthus is a small genus of about 20 species of bulbous herbaceous plants in the Amaryllis family, subfamily Amaryllidoideae...

, echoing the opening of the film.

This was the final film produced by Geffen Pictures
The Geffen Film Company
The Geffen Film Company was a film distributor and production company founded by David Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records, and future co-founder of DreamWorks. Geffen founded the company in 1980, having recruited Eric Eisner as president, and distributed its films through Warner Bros...

, which distributed its films through Warner Bros. Pictures. Geffen Pictures would be sold to Universal Studios
Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....

 years later.

See also

  • The Butcher Boy (soundtrack)
    The Butcher Boy (soundtrack)
    Elliot Goldenthal scored the 1997 movie The Butcher Boy; the soundtrack was released in 1998. It marks another collaboration with director Neil Jordan.- Track listing :# The Francie Brady Show - Elliot Goldenthal...

    composed by Elliot Goldenthal, a frequent Neil Jordan collaborator.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.