Term Paper: Commitments by Roddy Doyle

Pages: 4 (1595 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Commitments by Roddy Doyle. Specifically it will contain a character study of Joey "The Lips" Fagan. What are the different roles he portrays?

What does he bring to the band as a teacher, musical advisor, and spiritual advisor? Does he teach anything to them? Joey Fagan is not the main character in this short novel, but he is one of the most compelling. He serves an important purpose in the novel and to the band, and without him; the novel and the band would be quite different and not as interesting.

By the time Joey "The Lips" Fagan enters the novel; Jimmy Rabbitte has taken over the management of the band, and given it a name, "The Commitments." The band members, with Jimmy's urging, have also decided their music will be "Dublin soul" to reach out and appeal to the Irish working class. Jimmy places an ad in a local newspaper looking for musicians with soul, and Joey Fagan answers the ad. He is an older man, bald, fat, and more like a father than a partner. He is not at all what Jimmy had in mind, but he is compelling, takes charge, and can certainly play the trumpet, which is how he got his nickname. He brings depth and experience to the band, and certainly soul. He claims to have played with just about every big name in Motown soul, and others, too. He is just what the band needs to get them started down the right path and keep them motivated and working.

What are the different roles he portrays?

What does he bring to the band as a teacher, musical advisor, and spiritual advisor? Does he teach anything to them?

Joey plays several different roles in the novel. He is a musician first of all, and a good one, so he acts as a teacher to the other band members, many of whom are just learning how to play or sing. He is a professional, and so the others want to be like him, so he is a type of mentor too. He has done what the teenagers want to do, and so he can show them the ropes and maybe make their lives a little easier. He is somewhat like a savior, creating something from nothing and watching it grow and mature, but he is also human, and he runs away when the going gets too tough. He is not honest, and he is odd, but he is also the reason the band was successful.

His role seems like a mentor, but in the end, he acts more like a destroyer. He allows the women to come between the band and the music, and he cannot take the pressure or responsibility of a real life with real commitment. He is a good man, and he seems like a role model, but in the end, he is not. He plays the role of good and bad, leader and destructive force, and without him, the novel would not make sense, and the band would probably not exist. As a teacher, Joey is special, because he brings so much musical knowledge and expertise to the band. But he is also a friend, and when he leaves, the band cannot possibly stay together.

He plays another important role in the story too. He is the character that almost all the action revolves around. He is a catalyst for change, but he does not change himself. He is stationary in life. It seems that he has learned all he has to learn, and he cannot be any different than he already is. He is the contrast to the impetuous youth who make up the rest of the band. He is older and wiser, but he allows the young men to grow and to change, while he does not. He shows them they are capable of change, and of great things. It is almost as if he were a savior or a guardian angel who sets them on the right path and then moves along to his next assignment. He is not perfect by any means, but he does represent change, growth, and the eternal quest for happiness and fulfillment that each of the band members share.

Joey brings a lot to the band. He brings musical and professional experience which is important, but it is much more than that alone. He makes them into a team, and makes them care about each other. Perhaps he makes them care too much, and that is why they cannot stay together. They all have egos, they all care about the girls (some too much), and they care about making it as a band. Their egos get in the way of their commitment, and they cannot stay together. Joey has made them good - so good that they begin to think they are better than they are - and this is deadly.

He also truly brings them soul. He teaches them about soul, but more than that, as he rehearses the band, he shows them the very heart of soul, so they can carry it inside them and communicate it to their audience. Doyle notes, "Joey the Lips was a calming influence on them. It must have been his age" (Doyle 60).

So, as he teaches them, they mature, and they come to respect and admire his knowledge and what he shares with them. Joey brings just about everything to the band that they need to thrive, and then, he leaves. He is a spiritual advisor, because he brings them his own spirituality, but in the end he is not spiritual but weak and only human. He deserts the band because he cannot face the fact that he may have gotten Imelda pregnant, and he shows that when times are toughest, he cannot be counted on.

Perhaps the most important thing he brings to the band is their success. His leadership teaches them that they can be a success, and that they can make more out of their lives. They can be good and they might even be great. He gives them a taste of the good life, and some of them cannot give it up or forget it. This is important to the end of the novel, when Jimmy forms a new band and the reader is left feeling that just about anything is possible. This new band could work, because now the members have more experience, they are the core of the original band that always got along together, and they have removed their disruptive influences, such as Deco, the girls, and even Joey himself. Joey is so important to the novel because of everything he brings to the band. He does not change during the book, but the other Commitments change, and that is the ultimate purpose Joey serves, as a catalyst of change for the others.

Joey teaches the band about music and soul. Early in the book Doyle writes, "Joey the Lips was a terrific teacher, very patient" (Doyle 33). He teaches them about soul music, but he also teaches them dignity and respect. Joey does this by explaining to them, but also by his example. He is a dignified man, even if he is a womanizer and from another generation. He also teaches the band about being older and aging. They seem to think, because they are young, that getting older means stopping enjoying life. However, They discover that he still has a love life, the still appreciates women, he still has talent, and he still wants to succeed, even though he is "older than their fathers." He teaches them dignity, but he also teaches them that getting older does not have to mean giving up the enjoyment and the riches that life has to offer.


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