Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin

Corrigan’s older brother. Less religiously-inclined than his younger sibling, he is often skeptical of Corrigan’s unshakeable trust in drunks and prostitutes. When he moves to New York City to escape the violence of the Northern Ireland Conflict, he stays in Corrigan’s small apartment and is initially appalled by the way prostitutes stream in and out of the room. After it becomes clear that he won’t be able to convince his brother to move somewhere else—somewhere safer and cleaner—he begins to understand the humanity that Corrigan sees lurking at the heart of the Bronx. Ciaran slowly gets to know the prostitutes that Corrigan has befriended and finds himself capable of empathizing with them, finally able to view them as humans in a tough situation rather than as misguided and ill-intentioned criminals.

Ciaran Corrigan Quotes in Let the Great World Spin

The Let the Great World Spin quotes below are all either spoken by Ciaran Corrigan or refer to Ciaran Corrigan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Political Unrest Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Let the Great World Spin published in 2009.
Book One, Chapter 1: All Respects to Heaven, I Like it Here Quotes

He still drank with them, but only on special days. Mostly he was sober. He had this idea that the men were really looking for some type of Eden and that when they drank they returned to it, but, on getting there, they weren’t able to stay. He didn’t try to convince them to stop. That wasn’t his way.

Related Characters: Ciaran Corrigan (speaker), John Andrew Corrigan (“Corrigan”)
Page Number: 17-8
Explanation and Analysis:

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“It’s like dust. You walk about and don’t see it, don’t notice it, but it’s there and it’s all coming down, covering everything. You’re breathing it in. You touch it. You drink it. You eat it. But it’s so fine you don’t notice it. But you’re covered in it. It’s everywhere. What I mean is, we’re afraid. Just stand still for an instant and there it is, this fear, covering our faces and tongues. If we stopped to take account of it, we’d just fall into despair. But we can’t stop. We’ve got to keep going.”

Related Characters: John Andrew Corrigan (“Corrigan”) (speaker), Ciaran Corrigan, Jazzlyn Henderson
Page Number: 29-30
Explanation and Analysis:

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We seldom know what we’re hearing when we hear something for the first time, but one thing is certain: we hear it as we will never hear it again. We return to the moment to experience it, I suppose, but we can never really find it, only its memory, the faintest imprint of what it really was, what it meant.

Related Characters: Ciaran Corrigan (speaker), John Andrew Corrigan (“Corrigan”), Adelita
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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We have all heard of these things before. The love letter arriving as the teacup falls. The guitar striking up as the last breath sounds out. I don’t attribute it to God or to sentiment. Perhaps it’s chance. Or perhaps chance is just another way to try to convince ourselves that we are valuable.

Yet the plain fact of the matter is that it happened and there was nothing we could do to stop it…

Related Characters: Ciaran Corrigan (speaker), John Andrew Corrigan (“Corrigan”)
Page Number: 68
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book One, Chapter 3: A Fear of Love Quotes

He let the pieces of the napkin flutter to the floor and said something strange about words being good for saying what things are, but sometimes they don’t function for what things aren’t. He looked away. The neon in the window brightened as the light went down outside.

His hand brushed against mine. That old human flaw of desire.

Related Characters: Lara Liveman (speaker), Ciaran Corrigan
Page Number: 155
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book Two, Chapter 7: This is the House That Horse Built Quotes

He said to me once that most of the time people use the word love as just another way to show off they’re hungry. The way he said it went something like: Glorify their appetites.

Related Characters: Tillie Henderson (speaker), Ciaran Corrigan
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

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Ciaran Corrigan Character Timeline in Let the Great World Spin

The timeline below shows where the character Ciaran Corrigan appears in Let the Great World Spin. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book One, Chapter 1: All Respects to Heaven, I Like it Here
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
Ciaran provides a detailed account of his brother Corrigan’s life, beginning with their shared childhood in... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
...prayers on the top bunk in the boys’ shared room. These prayers are unlike anything Ciaran has ever heard: they are punctuated by laughter and sighs and are frantically rhythmic, like... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
Corrigan is a charismatic, charming boy. People are naturally drawn to him. One night when Ciaran is eleven and Corrigan is nine, Ciaran wakes up to a cold rush of air.... (full context)
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Later that morning, when their mother walks them to school, Ciaran notices his mother’s eye catch something on the other side of the road. It is... (full context)
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...gives the new blanket away to another homeless man on a frigid Dublin night. This, Ciaran says in retrospect, is the first inclination of what his brother will become when he’s... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
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...poverty, trying to take on some of the burden. And although Corrigan never mentions it, Ciaran can tell that some of this behavior also has to do with the absence of... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
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The boys’ mother dies of cancer when Ciaran is nineteen and Corrigan is seventeen. As they stand over her dead body at the... (full context)
Political Unrest Theme Icon
By this time Ciaran has dropped out of university, lived for a short time as a late-blooming hippie, and... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Ciaran arrives at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. Corrigan, who said he would... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Prostitutes line the streets. One in particular holds a parasol and calls out to Ciaran, who immediately says, “I’m broke.” She calls him an asshole and keeps moving. Perplexed, he... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Corrigan’s apartment is on the fifth floor of a twenty-story building. Ciaran opens the door—which is unlocked—to find a room empty except for a ripped sofa, a... (full context)
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Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Later that night Corrigan finally comes home. He wakes up Ciaran to say hello. Corrigan is even thinner than he always has been and his hair... (full context)
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Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
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...saying, “Not here, you know you can’t do that in here.” When the women leave, Ciaran is astonished that his brother shows them such lenience and kindness, saying that they’re all... (full context)
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Finally, when the conversation dies down, Ciaran brings up the fact that Corrigan didn’t come to the funeral when their father died... (full context)
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Days pass, and Ciaran slowly acclimates to life in the Bronx and the housing projects, though he remains uncomfortable... (full context)
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Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
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Still struggling to accept the presence of the prostitutes in his brother’s apartment, Ciaran begins locking the door. When Corrigan asks him to leave it unlocked, the two brothers... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Ciaran runs outside after his brother has left. He passes a man teaching a dog to... (full context)
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...home late that night, he is lethargic and his eyes lazily roll in their sockets. Ciaran’s bags are packed and he is ready to leave, but Corrigan sets to work taking... (full context)
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For the most part, Ciaran is not surprised that his brother is using heroin. He figures that it is the... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
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Doubt & Faith Theme Icon
Ciaran once again accompanies Corrigan as he drives the elderly around. In picking them up, he... (full context)
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Continuing his story, Corrigan tells Ciaran that Tillie, Jazzlyn, and Angie threw a “not-dead” party for him, which he decided to... (full context)
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...her, and she starts coming to his apartment, where the two of them insist that Ciaran stay, as if his presence provides an appropriate separation between them so that they remain... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
Ciaran gets a job as a bartender in Queens. One night on his way home he... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...picks up a key ring that Jazzlyn dropped. It bears pictures of her two daughters. Ciaran tries to tell his brother that they will get the women later, but Corrigan shows... (full context)
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Corrigan asks Ciaran to pick up the elderly patients from the nursing home while he goes downtown to... (full context)
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Adelita, who has her children with her, helps Ciaran take the elderly residents to the beach. Once they get there, Ciaran starts asking Adelita... (full context)
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Unaware of the accident Corrigan and Jazzlyn have been in, Ciaran and Adelita finish their day at the beach. Ciaran drops everyone off and drives back... (full context)
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At the hospital Ciaran and Adelita find Corrigan while Adelita’s children sit in the waiting room. Frantic, they pull... (full context)
Book One, Chapter 3: A Fear of Love
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...her that she is in a rough neighborhood—direct her to Corrigan’s apartment, where she meets Ciaran and Adelita. (full context)
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...for the hospital and that she is returning Corrigan’s belongings. When she finds out that Ciaran is about to leave for Jazzlyn’s funeral, she asks if she can accompany him. He... (full context)
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
Prejudice & Stereotypes Theme Icon
...cemetery, Lara parks the car out of sight. At the ceremony she stands next to Ciaran while the preacher speaks. Looking through the crowd, she identifies Tillie as Jazzlyn’s mother; she... (full context)
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Tillie approaches Ciaran and asks him if he remembers what they did together. Then the other women—the other... (full context)
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When the funeral ends, Lara offers Ciaran a ride home. He accepts, and when he sees the car’s smashed frontend, he knows... (full context)
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Finally answering Ciaran’s question, Lara says she doesn’t know why she didn’t stop after hitting Corrigan’s van. She... (full context)
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Lara narrates in greater detail the specifics of her time with Ciaran. They drove to a bar, avoiding the FDR. Ciaran told her about his childhood, about... (full context)
Book Two, Chapter 7: This is the House That Horse Built
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
...is not. Confused and angry, Tillie asks who she is. Lara explains that she is Ciaran’s friend. She promises to try to get Tillie’s grandchildren to visit. When she asks if... (full context)
Book Three, Chapter 10: Centavos
Simultaneity & Time Theme Icon
...in the accident. She has watched the doctor put a needle in his chest while Ciaran prayed repeatedly in the room. (full context)
Book Four, Chapter 12: Roaring Seaward, and I Go
Unity & Human Connection Theme Icon
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...to learn about their mother, so she drove alone from Galway to Dublin to meet Ciaran. He was the CEO of a company and worked in a fancy building in the... (full context)
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Jaslyn, Ciaran, and Ciaran’s wife, Lara, spent a slow evening in the garden behind Ciaran and Lara’s... (full context)