Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Hugh Mor O’Donnell

Hugh Mor O’Donnell, the master of an Irish hedge school, in his early sixties, who persists in educating his charges (most of whom are adults) in the classical languages, despite his growing recognition that English is the language of the future. Fond of his pint, he has usually taken a drop too much, but he is never really drunk. Irascible and arrogant, he, more than anyone else in the play, understands that the translation of Irish place-names into English involves a transition from one world to another. Furthermore, despite his personal regret at the cultural violence done by such translation, he recognizes the inevitability of the transition if Ireland is to avoid being “imprisoned in a linguistic contour which no longer matches the landscape of . . . fact.” a poet writing in a language few can read, he understands the extent to which language shapes humankind’s understanding of the world and sees clearly the forces sweeping his country from “spiritual” Irish to “commercial” English.


Manus, Hugh’s eldest son, in his late twenties or early thirties. He assists Hugh in the hedge school, makes his dinner, and sees him safely through the hours of drink. For all of this, his father pays him no salary and treats him like a footman. Manus loves Maire and would like to marry her, but he has no way to support her and will not go against his father for the job at the new national school the British are building. He is lame because his father, drunk, fell on him while he was a baby. Manus somehow turns the incident into a reason for being responsible...

(The entire section is 669 words.)