Monday, September 18, 2017

The Fur Coat by Sean O'Faolain Review

The short story "The Fur Coat" was written by a prominent Irish writer, Sean O'Faolain. Sean O'Faolain was christened John Whelan but he changed his name to the original Gaelic to show his pride in all Irish things.

There are no many actions in the story, only a few conversations about buying a fur coat. The main idea is to show an internal world of the main protagonist through the prism of her life experience.

The main character of the story is Molly - the wife of Paddy Maguire who became a Parliamentary-Secretary. She "gazed into his eyes and said, adoringly, “Now, Paddy, I must have a fur coat.” Maguire answered admiringly "Of course, of course, my dear,” ... Get two fur coats! Switzers will give us any amount of tick from now on.”. We can see further Molly's motivation of buying the fur coat. She used to be in a hard life's conditions during "revolution, husband in and out of prison, children reared with the help of relatives and Prisoners' Dependents' Fund".

Which thoughts were behind the request of the fur coat and was it a real demand? Through answers to these questions, we can understand the meaning and moral of the story.

She rhetorically asked her husband "You think I'm extravagant!”, she used the provoke statements “Paddy, you big fool, do you know what you'd pay for a mink coat?".

Next day this conversation continued. Molly wanted to be "well-dressed as anybody." But she declared that the true reasons were "wear any old thing under a fur coat.”, in other words, it needs much more money to buy the clothes for being equal to others on this level of the social ladder. Paddy Maguire agreed with all Molly's proposals, he listened to her, thinking simultaneously about some issues of his job, "he was lost in his plans", he worked on the plan of the pier. She wasn't satisfied "Paddy, tell me honestly. Honestly, now! Do you seriously think that I could put eighty-five pounds on my back?”. She started talking about dead animals and how it is cruel to make fur coats from them.

Molly explained emotionally that the cost of clothes is much higher than the price of the fur coat "I'd have to have two shoes and a blouse and hat and gloves and a fur and a purse and everything to match it, and I'd spend far more in the heel of the hunt, and I haven't time for that sort of thing". Paddy Maguire seemed to be confused, he agreed to buy a fur coat, Molly cried “Stop it! I told you I don't want a fur coat! And you don't want me to get a fur coat! You're too mean, that's what it is! And like all the Irish, you have the peasant streak in you. You're all alike, every bloody wan of ye. Keep your rotten fur coat. I never wanted it…

Paddy became perplexed, nobody before called him mean. "He sat miserably at his table, cold with anger. He murmured the hateful word over and over, and wondered could there be any truth in it. He added ten yards to the pier. He reduced the ten to five, and then, seeing what he had done, swept the whole thing off the table."

After three days she found a cheque on her dressing-table. "She went down and put her arms about his neck and laid the cheque, torn in four, into his hand. “I'm sorry, Paddy,” she begged, crying like a kid. “You're not mean".

Instead of describing the last scene of the story, it's better to quote it all: He "looked her straight in the eyes. “Molly. Tell me the truth. You want this coat?” “I do. O, God, I do!” “Then go out and buy it.” “I couldn't, Paddy, I just couldn't.” He looked at her for a long time. Then he asked. “Why?” She looked straight at him, and shaking her head sadly, she said in a little sobbing voice,“I don't know.

I had a mixture of impressions after reading this story. On the first sight, we see here lack of actions, just a few conversations with inconsistent intentions. But during the second reading for purpose of writing review for my blog, my evaluation of the story changed dramatically. I remembered the story “Grace” of a very well known Irish writer, James Joyce (I published the analysis of that story on my blog). The reading had the similar effect. There is something common in the way of thinking, an attitude to life, relationships in society. Reading this story is a next step to the aim of understanding the soul of mysterious Irish character.

The Fur Coat by Sean O’Faolain

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