(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

It is a fine summer Saturday in Boghill, a community in rural Ireland. In most respects, it is an ordinary day. Trains are expected to run on time. Things have remained unchanged in the enigmatic home of the widow that Maddy Rooney passed on her way to the railroad station to meet her husband Dan, who is returning at midday from work. This is a time when it is customary to work a five-and-a-half-day week. Everything that Maddy learned about the condition of the spouses and dependents of those she encounters on her walk to the station remains, painfully, unchanged.

Yet, in other respects, it is by no means an ordinary day. One difference is that a race is to be held locally. Although this event is not greeted with a great deal of exuberance by Mrs. Rooney and the majority of the other characters, including Mr. Slocum, the clerk of the course, it does alleviate the boredom of the station-hand, Tommy. Each of the old, familiar acquaintances Mrs. Rooney meets in the course of her walk to the station offers to give her a helping hand. Although well meant, these offers vary only in the degree of their preposterousness. Today, as on every other day, it is enough for Mrs. Rooney to try to keep her feet on the ground. Therefore, in response to the offers of assistance, she insists on her desire to make every effort to maintain her elementary means of locomotion. The offers range from a ride on Christy’s manure cart to a ride in Mr. Slocum’s car. Mrs. Rooney accepts the latter offer, but its results prove as humiliating as if she had taken the former. Her walk to the station, however, is not taken up by questions of transportation alone. On her way, Mrs. Rooney muses in a...

(The entire section is 688 words.)