Marie-Therese has a powerful article about shunning at ur-B&W. She has extended and corrosive experience of being shunned, starting with the nightmare of life in the industrial “school” in Dublin where she was imprisoned from childhood through adolescence.
The very thought of the word absolutely sends shivers down my spine. Shunning is indicative of pure ruthless social rejection, a thing I grew up with in Goldenbridge. I also associate it with children who were very friendly with each other in the institution, who, alas, were severely mocked and jeered and separated from each other by staff. The latter called them ‘love birds’ then castigated and shunned them. There were also children who were different from others, and they too were deliberately avoided by other children and not allowed to associate with the group. Goldenbridge children, who did not know the meaning of mother or father figures, should not have been targeted in a shunning manner by grown-ups, whose sole responsibility was to act in loco parentis. It was the antithesis of any kind of loving parenting or caring guardianship. The children who turned their backs on other children, however, were only doing what they had seen those in charge doing all the time. It was learned behaviour. A warped environment begets warped behaviour. Mother and father figures are most important in children’s lives and deprivation of them was punishment enough, without having the added burden of being shunned by grown-ups. Mother and father words meant nothing to institutionalised inmates…excepting that they were words synonymous with beatings, whereby children had hollered out those very words…’O Mammy…O Daddy’ after a big thick shiny polished bark of a tree was rained down heavily by the nun in charge after the children had spent hours on a cold landing awaiting said floggings. Child inmates were also prevented from knowing or [O1] speaking to the nuns in the convent. The latter were just like aliens from another planet. When child inmates dared to look back at them sitting in their personal convent chapel pews, with black hooded heads completely hidden and matching black gown trails sprawling all over the aisles, they were invariably told by the nun who caught them to go and wait on the dreaded cold landing for punishment.