The Ballroom of Romance by William Trevor Cox

Start Your Free Trial

Download The Ballroom of Romance Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bridie, an unmarried woman in her mid-thirties, lives in rural Ireland and spends much of her time caring for her crippled father. Bridie still hopes to marry, and on Saturday nights, she rides her bicycle the seven miles to a wayside dance hall. She has been going to the dances for years.

On this occasion, when she arrives at the dance, she greets Dano Ryan, the drummer in the band, and exchanges pleasantries in the cloakroom with her acquaintances among the girls. These include Madge Dowding, who is three years older than Bridie and is also unmarried. Madge tends to make a fool of herself chasing after the bachelors at the dance. Bridie dances with various men, sparing a thought for her father, who is probably falling asleep by the fire listening to the radio. She knows most of the men at the dance, and at various times over the previous decade, she has been kissed by some of them; however, this has never led to any possibility of marriage.

At ten o’clock, as usual, three middle-aged bachelors arrive at the dance, having cycled over from the public house. Bridie dances with one of them, Bowser Egan, who compliments her on her appearance. Another bachelor, Eyes Horgan, who is named for his bloodshot eyes, dances with Madge.

As she dances, Bridie’s thoughts turn to Dano Ryan. She thinks that he might make an acceptable husband. Once she had pretended to have a puncture in her bicycle tire as she was about to go home from the dance, and he had pumped up the tire for her. It is well known in the dance hall that Bridie is interested in Dano, who works as a laborer for the County Council and lodges with a widow named Mrs. Griffin. He is said to be kind to Mrs. Griffin’s disabled son.

Bowser pays great attention to Bridie, buying her a lemonade and complimenting her. After he goes to the bathroom to drink from the whiskey bottle he carries around with him (no alcohol is allowed at the dance), Bridie watches Dano. She imagines him sitting in her father’s farmhouse kitchen, and the three of them eating a meal together that she had prepared. She imagines what her life would be like under such circumstances.

As a group gathers, the talk is about a new cement factory that is being built in a nearby town, but Bridie tries to talk to Dano on a more personal level. She tells him she will get him medicine for his eyes, which have been bothering him. However, he politely refuses, saying...

(The entire section is 668 words.)