A principle of duality is central to McGinley’s vision in Bogmail. Thus, in effect, the novel has two central characters. Roarty is undoubtedly Bogmail’s protagonist, in the sense that he either commissions, or is actively implicated in, the story’s significant action. His destiny is twinned, however, with that of the other main character, Kenneth Potter, who in certain important respects is Roarty’s equal and opposite. The implications of such twinning may be detected, in a preliminary way, by comparing Roarty’s and Potter’s choice of profession.
In Roarty’s case, it is more relevant to the novel’s overall ambitions to regard him not simply as a publican but also as what is called in Ireland (and in the novel) a “spoiled priest.” This label is attached to somebody who failed to complete his training for the priesthood, somebody who has probably been conditioned by the clerical mentality but who has declined to function socially under the duly ordained auspices of such conditioning. By virtue of choosing such a sociocultural identity for Roarty, McGinley facilitates the reader’s understanding of his unease and incompetence regarding matters of the flesh, his commitment to mental discipline and to theoretical models of human behavior, and the prompt and absolute nature of his moral judgments. McGinley, in a deft piece of poker-faced satire, adapts the New Testament parable about the publican by making Roarty somewhat...
(The entire section is 510 words.)