The Characters (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
A principle of duality is central to McGinley’s vision in Bogmail. Thus, in effect, the novel has two central characters. Roarty is undoubtedly Bogmail’s protagonist, in the sense that he either commissions, or is actively implicated in, the story’s significant action. His destiny is twinned, however, with that of the other main character, Kenneth Potter, who in certain important respects is Roarty’s equal and opposite. The implications of such twinning may be detected, in a preliminary way, by comparing Roarty’s and Potter’s choice of profession.
In Roarty’s case, it is more relevant to the novel’s overall ambitions to regard him not simply as a publican but also as what is called in Ireland (and in the novel) a “spoiled priest.” This label is attached to somebody who failed to complete his training for the priesthood, somebody who has probably been conditioned by the clerical mentality but who has declined to function socially under the duly ordained auspices of such conditioning. By virtue of choosing such a sociocultural identity for Roarty, McGinley facilitates the reader’s understanding of his unease and incompetence regarding matters of the flesh, his commitment to mental discipline and to theoretical models of human behavior, and the prompt and absolute nature of his moral judgments. McGinley, in a deft piece of poker-faced satire, adapts the New Testament parable about the publican by making Roarty somewhat...
(The entire section is 510 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Tim Roarty, the proprietor of a pub in the County Donegal village of Glenkeel. Tall, bearded, and bald, he emits an air of pessimism, considering himself a man of action condemned to an idle existence. A former seminarian, he has been impotent since he was twenty-eight. His wife died seventeen years before the time of the story, after giving birth to a daughter, Cecily, to whom Roarty is devoted despite his not being her natural father. When barman Eamonn Eales turns his attentions to Cecily, Roarty sends the girl to London, kills his employee, and buries him in a bog, deeming this murder a triumph of intelligence. His smugness is shattered when he finds himself the victim of a blackmailer who he decides is Kenneth Potter, whom he also attempts to murder. After Roarty accidentally shoots Rory Rua, the dying man reveals that he is in fact the blackmailer.
Kenneth Potter, an Englishman living in County Donegal while working for a mining firm. The introspective Potter has become increasingly lonely since turning forty and losing his ardor for his Irish wife, who remains in Dublin. He finds himself revitalized by Irish village life and his affair with Nora Hession. Attempting to become part of the community, he leads the opposition to Canon Loftus’ replacement of the wooden altar in the village chapel with a limestone one, only to have the priest convince the villagers that Potter’s company...
(The entire section is 669 words.)