“Their lives are of secret longings and shattered dreams.” Discuss this statement in reference to only two of the Mundy sisters.

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Mundy sisters are key characters in Dancing At Lughnasa. The five Mundy sisters, Christina, Rosie, Kate, Agnes, and Maggie, all live in a cottage near Ballybeg, in Donegal County.

The play is told from the point of view of the adult Michael Evans, then only seven years old at the time of the story. Although all five of the sisters do their best, their 'secret longings' are never fulfilled and their 'shattered dreams' remain all that they have, despite their best efforts.

Christina Mundy

Christina is the youngest of the Mundy sisters; her son, Michael, the narrator of the story, is fathered by one Gerry Evans. Gerry is an absent husband and father. When he suddenly shows up one day, Chris feels angry, frustrated, and excited all at the same time. Yet, her boyfriend seems oblivious to the flurry of emotions he has inspired by his sudden presence.

Characteristically, he admits to Chris that his coming to Ballybeg is only by accident. He expects Chris to be happy to see him whenever he shows up, but has no inclination to make good on his obligations to her and to their son.

"Last night in a bar in Sligo. Bump into this chappie with a Brand new Morris Cowley who lets slip that he’s heading for Ballybeg in the morning. Ballybeg? Something familiar about That name! So. Here I am. In the flesh. As a matter of interest. Bit of good luck that, wasn’t it?"

In fact, Gerry acts like an old friend who has come for a friendly visit. For most of his interactions with Chris, his attitude is detached, nonchalant, and shallow. In his conversation, he tells Chris that he has been giving ballroom dancing lessons to 'thousands' and 'millions' of people, only to revise his final figures to fifty-one.

He then tells Chris that he is at present, a Minerva Gramophone salesman; however,  it doesn't look like he has sold a single gramophone. He admits that the extent of his success has only involved someone taking four brochures from him, but he hurriedly assures Chris that the individual is a customer in the making. He then starts insinuating that he has a rich store of experience to back up his claim that gramophones will always be popular. However, he never quite backs up his claims before he changes the topic of his conversation. It is the same with his non-committal promise of a new bike for his son.

Gerry's conversational style mirrors the ephemeral quality of his promises; as with his diction, jumping from one enterprise to another without really accomplishing anything of value seems to be his modus operandi. His on again/off again relationship with his girlfriend and his son bears out his unreliable and vacillating nature. In the play, Chris' sisters lament Gerry's lack of 'ordinary duty' and his inclination to toy with their sister's heart.

As such, Gerry represents the loss of Chris' 'secret longings' and the epitome of her 'shattered dreams.' He never quite comes through for her and Michael. After a motorcycle accident in Spain, he eventually marries a woman in Wales and has three children with her, without Chris the wiser. Michael tells us towards the end of the play that his mother spends the rest of her life working at the knitting factory, hating every minute of it. For her as well as for Michael, the promise of a stable life and a happy home never quite materializes.

Agnes Mundy

In the play, both Agnes and Rose share a very close relationship. When the new knitting factory opens, both sisters lose the income from their glove knitting cottage industry. In the end, both sisters secretly leave home, and their departure is the catalyst for the disintegration of the familiar life all the sisters have led up to that point. Michael tells us that, although every effort was made to find his aunts, they were never found. It is Michael who tracks them down twenty five years later. Again, neither sister was able to satisfy her 'secret longings' for a better life;  both sisters went to their deaths nursing their individual 'shattered dreams.'

Of course they did try to find them. So did the police. So did our neighbors who had a huge network of relatives all over England and America. But they had vanished without trace. And by the time I tracked them down-twenty -five years later, in London- Agnes was dead and Rose was dying in a hospice for the destitute in Southwark.

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