Study Guide

Death in Jerusalem

by William Trevor Cox

Death in Jerusalem Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Death in Jerusalem” concerns the disintegration of the relationship between two Irish brothers, unlike in all ways, but especially in the ways they regard their mother.

Francis Daly, the younger brother, has always lived at home with his mother in a small town in County Tipperary. He is not unhappy with his uneventful life, which consists of managing a hardware store in the daytime, spending many silent evenings sitting with his mother in the parlor, much praying and churchgoing, and occasionally going on quiet vacations with a few friends. However, for many years, Francis has dreamed of traveling to the Holy Land. One July, when his much respected elder brother, Father Paul, a gregarious Roman Catholic priest from San Francisco, is on his annual visit to see his mother in Tipperary, the brothers decide to meet in Jerusalem the next year for a vacation.

For the next twelve months, Francis spends much time and effort trying to obtain his mother’s blessing regarding the trip. He is unsuccessful. She utters not a word about it, but her demeanor indicates her disapproval. From the time he sets out, Francis feels a sense of unease that prevents him from enjoying himself as he had thought he would. A fellow passenger on the flight to Jerusalem, intending to be friendly with advice on sights to see and food to enjoy, intrudes on Francis’s privacy. By the time the two brothers meet at their luxurious hotel, Francis is too exhausted to appreciate its splendors and goes to bed early.

Father Paul, on the other hand, is glad to spend several hours more at the bar, sipping whiskey and chatting with some American tourists, until he is interrupted by a summons to the reception desk to receive a telegram. The message shocks him: His mother, back in...

(The entire section is 727 words.)