She wondered where they would go, and could not bear the thought of somewhere that was impossible to imagine. She cried to herself among the ferns that grew in clumps a few yards from the stream. ‘It’ll be the end of us,’ Henry had said when she had listened, and Bridget had said it would be. The past was the enemy in Ireland, her papa said another time.

Does it mean: in past somethings had happened and because of that these trouble was happening in Ireland?

or in the past there was an enemy in Ireland?

Source: The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor

  • 2
    I think we need a little more context, specifically the story she had listened to. But in general, it seems to mean that Ireland has had a difficult history (which is true), and that modern people are still dealing with the consequences.
    – legatrix
    Dec 9, 2020 at 11:18

1 Answer 1


The first guess is closer.

An enemy is something that opposes you, something that you are fighting or liable to fight, something that is attempting to do things that will harm you. In a place where there has been long conflict and hatred, sometimes it is difficult to change the society to a peaceful outlook because of the built-up feelings from the past, and that becomes more destructive than any animosity still existing. So poetically, what people are 'fighting' is the past.

  • So can we say: because of the history of Ireland these troubles were happening?. because in the first of story writer says: every week somewhere went up, no matter how the constabulary were spread. Dec 9, 2020 at 12:15
  • You can say that; it isn't very good English. There are also probably other, additional reasons the troubles are happening.
    – rcook
    Dec 9, 2020 at 12:34
  • 2
    If you don't know anything about the history of Ireland, you might find that reading something about it would help you to understand the book better Dec 9, 2020 at 13:10

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