THE BAD TIMES: An Drochshaol.
A curriculum guide to the graphic novel

by Professor Anne Dichele, School of Education, Quinnipiac University.



Essential Underlying Questions 

1.    Are famines more an act of nature or the result of decisions made by people?

2.    What is the responsibility of a government in times of disaster?

3.    What are human rights?

4.    Why does hunger continue to exist in the modern world?

5.    Can individuals affect the issue of hunger in the world today?

6.    How are the issues of famine and immigration related?

7.    What are our responsibilities to the global community?

8.    Is history a story of progress?


Essential Understandings 

1.    Genocide and racism continue to exist.

2.    Mass emigration is often the result of desperation.

3.    Famine, hunger and food scarcity is a contemporary problem as well as a historical one.

4.    The interplay of governments, politics, economics and culture all affect the issue of hunger.



1.    Have small groups begin to research the Irish Famine and one other famine such asthe Ukrainian famine of the early 20th century and a current day famine in terms of causes (for example, in Pakistan).
Set up a comparison chart – (CCR Anchor Standard 9: Comparing and Contrasting)

2.    “The Almighty sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine.”  
(John Mitchel, The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps), 1873, p.219)

Design a debate to agree or disagree with the above quote. Use evidence to prepare your argument.
(CCR Anchor Standard 6: Point of View and Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

3.    Begin to fill out a narrative story structure. Have students fill out a story structure as they read.
(CCR Anchor Standard 5: Text Structures)

    Setting: Time and Place

    Main Characters:    

    Plot: What is the central problem?



4.    Research who “repealers” are and what is the “Act of Union” to which the priest refers.
What are these early scenes telling the reader about the Irish and Ireland in the summer of 1846?
(CCR Anchor Standard 1: Close Reading)

5.    Begin to have students develop a timeline of events from Summer of 1846 through December of 1847. Fill in
major historical events as they read.
(CCR Anchor Standard 3: Development of events)

6.    Many Irish Poets have written of the famine. Read and analyze poems from that time period.
How do the poems capture what historical documents cannot?
(CCR Anchor Standard 7: Content in Diverse Media)


Questions and Activities to Guide the Reading

Scene 1 – 

    What is Lughnasa?  Why do you think this is an important event? Research the Lughnasa rituals.  

Scenes 1-4 – 

    The reader begins to see the living situations of Dan and Brigit.
What descriptions in the text help you to understand what their lives are like?
(CCR Anchor Standard 1: Close Reading)

Scene 6 – 

    Brigit’s Dad tells his wife “not to share what little food we have with other people.” Discuss with
a reading partner whether you think Brigit’s Dad is right, or is he being selfish and mean?
(CCR Anchor Standard 6: Point of View)

Scene 7 – 

    Brigit gives Dan the egg her mother let her take to him, but he asks if he can bring it to his mother.  Dan is hungry,
so why does he too, give his food away? What does this tell you about the kind of person Dan is?
(CCR Anchor Standard 3: Development of characters)

  Dan was named after Daniel O’Connell. Why? Who is Daniel O’Connell – research this historical
figure and write a short explanation of why you think Dan was named after him.
(CCR Anchor Standard 7: Content in Diverse Media)

Scene 8 – 

    Pawn Shop: You have seen pawn shops on television. Mr. Hayes, Liam’s Dad, owns the shop.
Liam works there. Why do you think people are pawning the things they own?  

    How might Liam’s life be different from Dan and Brigit’s life? Find evidence in the text to
support your answers.
(CCR Anchor Standards 8: Reasons and Evidence, and 9: Comparing and Contrasting)

Scene 9 – 

    Meeting at the Rock: Dan, Brigit and Liam often meet at “the rock.” Do you think these friends have always met here?
What makes you think this? Why is this meeting place important to the story? What do you think of when you think of a rock?
How is the meeting place of the rock a metaphor in the story?
(CCR Anchor Standard 10: Text Complexity)

    What do the children discuss when at the rock? Are these the kinds of conversations you have
with your friends? How is it different? Use evidence from the story.

(CCR Anchor Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

Scene 10/11 –
    Research what is meant by the “Public Works.” What are the public works? Who initiated them
and why? Using the primary sources, write a description of what the public works were like.

(CCR Anchor Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

Scene 12– 
    Dan and Brigit and Cú meet a family walking to Dublin. They explain they are moving the family to
Liverpool, England. Research how many families left Ireland during 1847. Use the primary sources provided. 
(CCR Anchor Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

Scene 13 – 

    Dan, Brigit and Cú encounter British soldiers with carts of grain leaving the town. Where did this food come from?
Why were the British soldiers taking it away when people there were hungry? Where are they taking it?
Use the primary sources to research the amount of grain and corn that was exported during the famine in Ireland.
(CCR Anchor Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

    Consider recent hunger issues in America and other countries. Is there not enough food, or is the
issue more complicated than this? Consider your small group work investigating famine in other countries and
other times.Was food scarcity the real issue? 

    The two soldiers have very different responses to their encounter with Dan and Brigit. Read the
scene again and decide why that might be.  

Scene 14 – 

    The Quakers played an important role during the Bad Times. Research their involvement in this
time period. Then consider which groups today might be similar to the Quakers in their response to hungry people in this country.
(CCR Anchor Standards 6: Point of View and Standard 9: Comparing and Contrasting)

Scenes 15 to 17 – 

    The Rock and the Beach: Dan, Brigit and Liam decide to take Cú and go to the beach. They have eaten a little food brought by Liam. On their way, a hotel owner goes to throw out potatoes that the guests haven’t eaten, then he gives them to the children, whom he refers to as “skeletons.” They eat, and give some to the dog, Cú. Others are on the beach, looking for food. With so many so hungry, should the children share their food with Cú, the dog? Would you share your food with a pet if your family was starving?
Write a letter to Dan explaining why you think it is a good thing or a bad thing to feed Cú. 
(CCR Anchor Standard 2: Central Theme and Idea)

Scene 18–
    Yellow Fever and Black Leg: Many more people are becoming ill. Brigit’s Dad says of Mamó (the grandmother)
“The starvation is upon her.” What does that mean? What is he really saying and how do you know this? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 4: Word Meanings)

Scenes 19 to 21 –
    The Quiet/Mamó dies: Brigit realizes that “the birds have stopped singing.” Why do you think the sound of birds is gone?
Is there a dual meaning here? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 2: Central Idea/Theme)

Brigit’s grandmother dies outside; rats have come. The children chase away the rats, try to cover her with
a cloak. Why are the children not surprised by this or afraid?
(CCR Anchor Standard 6: Point of View)

Scenes 22 to 24 –

    At Mass, Dan is joined by his sister, Honora. Honora, comes from working in Colonel Vandeleur’s home, and has brought food
for Dan. Although Catholic, Dan’s mother does not come to Mass. Dan explains to Honora “Mam sold her cloak. She has only
rags so she won’t leave home.” How have both characters been changed by their circumstances? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 3:  Development of Characters, events and ideas)

Scenes 25 to 29 – 

    Once again, Liam brings food to Brigit and her family. But Marie, the younger twin, is sick. She, too, dies. Soon, Michael, the other twin, also dies. The O’Deas have lost three family members to starvation. 

Research how many people died during the Irish Famine. Compare those numbers with other famine deaths in other countries. Develop a bar graph indicating the number of deaths over the years of the famine for each country the small groups are investigating. What do the numbers tell us? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 7: Content in Diverse Media)

Scenes 30 to 33 – 

    Poor Law and Evictions: Read some of the primary sources are about the Poor Law and the evictions that took place during
the Irish Famine. Why were homes burnt down? Why were people forced off the land? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

    Look through contemporary photos of homeless people. How do the Irish scalpeens relate to these
contemporary photos? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 7: Content in Diverse Media)

Scenes 35 to 38 –

    After Dan’s mother dies from starvation and disease, Dan’s father commits suicide. Liam sees this. Liam goes to the Rock to
comfort Dan. Brigit’s family is evicted. Brigit and her family go to the local poorhouse. Brigit’s mother dies there, and is buried
in a pauper’s grave yard.  Dan asks Brigit to “run away with him.” Where? Why does Brigit refuse? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 6: Point of View)

Scenes 39 to 47 – 

    The meeting at the Rock: Dan is a lookout for others to steal a cow. Brigit’s father dies in the poor house. The children still meet at the rock. Brigit comes to say goodbye to Liam and Dan. She will go to Australia with other young girls to work and to save herself from starvation. Dan and Brigit express love for one another, but Brigit leaves. Dan is living alone with Cú in a scalpeen. He is weak. The constabulary (police) are after him for stealing the cow. Liam pushes Dan to emigrate to America with his sister, Honora. He has a brother there, Séamus. Investigate emigration during the time of the Irish Famine. Present your findings in pictures, graphs and other non-text representations. 
(CCR Anchor Standard 7: Content in Diverse Media)

What would you do? Why is Liam willing to help Dan? Why does Liam stay? Use text evidence to support your answers. 

(CCR Anchor Standard 8: Reasons and Evidence)

Scene 50 –

    Liam steals money from his father for Dan to get passage to America with his sister. Dan asks Liam to take care of Cú for him, vowing to return someday, to find Brigit and marry her. What do you think of Dan’s plans? Do you think he will return to Ireland? Do you think this story is typical of others during the Famine in Ireland? Would you stay in your home country or would you emigrate? 
(CCR Anchor Standard 2: Central Theme/Idea)