Kate Mundy, a parochial grade-school teacher in Ballybeg (Irish for “small town”), County Donegal. She is the only steady wage earner in the family, which includes her fallen-priest brother, Jack; her four younger sisters, all unmarried; and her illegitimate nephew, seven-year-old Michael. She is the stabilizing economic and social force holding the family together. Her dismissal from her teaching position because of Father Jack’s heterodoxy is another straw added to the weight of community dissolution. She winds up tutoring privately in the family of Austin Morgan, the proprietor of a local store. She was once associated with him romantically, but he married a younger woman. Kate is a silent, solo dancer.
Maggie Mundy, Kate’s sister, who is responsible for the outside work and the housekeeping chores in the family. Her bootlaces are always untied, reflecting her openness. She plays with and encourages young Michael with his kites, and she plays imaginative language games with him. She is a singer and a “dervish” dancer, full of exuberant energy. When the family breaks up, she carries on, adding her absent sisters’ tasks to hers, pretending to believe that nothing has changed.
Agnes Mundy and
Rose Mundy, Kate’s sisters. They have a glove-knitting contract that is taken away from them. Agnes, the best of the dancers, looks out for her sister Rose, who is “simple.” The naïve Rose’s date with the married Danny Bradley at a pagan Lughnasa...
(The entire section is 660 words.)