Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade May 2001

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Guilt And Survival The unusual novel Ironweed, by William Kennedy, is primarily about guilt and survival. In the book, Kennedy gives us Francis Phelan, an ordinary man, who is a bum by his own admission. Through out the book Francis has extraordinarily bad luck that has brought him to rock bottom, but also to a discovery, within himself, of an inner strength that he cannot understand. Through this, you are able to see that in life we all make mistakes, some more than others, but no one can be perfect.

In the beginning of Ironweed, Francis is a lost man who eventually comes to realization of the things he has been avoiding for so long. His past is full of regrettable mistakes such as the "scab" he killed with a well-aimed rock, the infant he accidentally dropped, and the insane bum he killed in self-defense. Every time Francis would make the wrong decision and something bad would happen, he would pick up his things and leave.

He was always running from his problems instead of coming to terms with them. Because he kept running, he ended up leaving his wife and children, and Katrina, his lover. He also missed out on spending time with Helen, the woman he lives with on the streets. Towards the end of the book, Francis visits his wife and children, to discover that his daughter had disowned him. His daughter Margaret said " I'm not going to be a hypocrite and welcome him back with open arms after what he did. You don't just pop up one day with a turkey and all is forgiven." After he left their house, he went to find Helen, the woman he keeps company. During his hunt for her, he begins to think of the things...