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Divided City by Theresa Breslin: Summary & Characters

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Glasgow, Scotland is a city divided. Graham and Joe are on either side of this split, joined by their love of football, but divided by their religious and cultural backgrounds. It takes a vicious attack to unite two boys, and make them see what really matters.

Introduction to Divided City

Have you ever had a friendship threatened by outside influences? This is the reality for Graham and Joe, who find that their families' warring religious viewpoints get in the way of their being friends. Through a shared love of football and a desire to do the right thing, the boys try to find some common ground. This lesson will focus on the characters and summary of the novel Divided City by Theresa Berslin.

Main Characters

Graham: a great football player who happens to be Protestant, a coddled only child

Joe: a great football player who happens to be Catholic

Kyoul: a young Muslim asylum seeker

Leann: Kyoul's girlfriend

Jammy: Joe's cousin, a Catholic who often gets into trouble

Joe's Dad: educated but depressed Catholic man

Granda Reid: Graham's grandfather, who is an Orangeman

Glasgow is a city divided along religious lines
Glasgow is a city divided along religious lines

A City Divided

In Glasgow, Scotland, everything is divided. Religion, services, and even the football (Americans would say soccer here) clubs the people follow. It's in this city that our protagonist Graham and his new friend Joe have grown up in.

Glasgow is made up of Protestants, who live on the west side of town. Many of the Protestants are native Scots, who tend to be wealthier and follow the football team called the Rangers. The Catholics, who live on the east side of the city, are often Irish emigrants who have settled in Scotland. The Catholic football team is known as the Celtics. There are many instances of fighting and violence between these groups of citizens.

Recently, a third group in Scotland is also a recipient of violence. The refugees from other countries, called asylum seekers. These immigrants, often Muslims from the Middle East, are targeted by both groups.

A Shared Love of Football

The novel follows two boys who are on the same soccer team. They're becoming friends, though they are on different sides of the divide. Graham is a Protestant, and his new friend Joe is a Catholic. Though they follow different sports teams--Graham loves the Rangers, while Joe is a Celtics fan-- they get along very well. Beside that, they are the two best players on the team.

One day after practice, Graham decides to take a shortcut home and use his bus money for chips. He goes down an alley and sees a group of stab a young foreign boy and run away. The boy, Kyoul, is badly hurt and Graham takes him to the hospital. There, Kyoul begs Graham to take the cellphone he is carrying back to Leanne, and tell her that he has been injured. Graham, worried about getting into trouble, agrees.

Graham and Joe bond over their love of football
Graham and Joe bond over their love of football

Mounting Tensions

The next day, Graham tries to follow through on his promise to Kyoul. He gets lost, ending up in a Catholic neighborhood called the Garngad. He's wearing his Rangers colors, so he quickly zips his jacket and hopes no one has noticed. But someone has. Jammy, a tough Catholic boy, quickly starts harassing Graham. Joe sees the altercation and comes to Graham's rescue, chasing off his cousin. Joe goes with Graham to deliver the phone, and then to visit Kyoul in the hospital. There, the nurse starts asking Graham questions and Graham is worried the police will find him while investigating the stabbing.

At home, both boys have problems. Graham's grandfather, Grandpa Reid, is pressuring him to join the Orange Walk, a time when Protestants gather and celebrate the victory of William of Orange over King James. These marches stir up lots of bad feelings in the city, and Graham is divided about joining them. He wants to make his grandfather happy, but he doesn't want to cause trouble. Joe's life is a struggle, too. His father is severely depressed and rarely leaves the house, leaving Joe to care for him.

The Orange Walks are always a source of tension in Glasgow
The Orange Walks are always a source of tension in Glasgow

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