Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“A Wet Day” is narrated by one of the major characters, the young niece, who reveals her own thoughts and observations, but no one else’s. She describes the few key scenes in the story without expressing judgments on Father Gogarty.

The story’s setting is also worth noticing. It is set in a small and clearly traditional Irish village. The people in the parish respect and sympathize with Father Gogarty because of his medical problems and the “cabbage” and “rhubarb” that he must eat. They endure his dry sermons uncomplainingly since they seem to conduct their spiritual lives without much help from him. They also accept the wet and cold of the church as penances that they endure for their spiritual benefit. By contrast, Father Gogarty is concerned primarily with his own comfort; he is not in tune with his setting or his parishioners. Completely oriented to the prevention of disease and infection, he has little sense of the spiritual. The aunt calls him a “martyr,” but no true martyr would be willing to sacrifice the life of another to his or her own comfort and quiet.

The priest’s style is clearly different from any of the other characters in the story. When introduced, he is complaining about the slugs that are ruining the lettuce on which he depends. His conversation is filled with negative comments about the weather and the possibility of disease. Self-pitying about his condition, he speaks about dying from deliberately eating a steak in order to gain sympathy from others. He is also cunning and calculating in the way that he forces the young man from Mullingar to agree to a fatal car trip. However, he seems not to be aware of the negative effect of the revelation of his character.

The lettuce is an important symbol that shows the changes occurring within the aunt. At the end, when she says “Take it away,” she shows her rejection of the priest and his world of vegetables. Earlier in the story, she gladly gives lettuce to the priest to help sustain him. Now she wants nothing to do with it. In contrast, the niece could eat a “bowlful” of lettuce and is annoyed at her aunt’s rejection of it. However, she does see its significance, and she and her aunt are reconciled as a result.