The Country Girls Trilogy and Epilogue Analysis

Edna O’Brien

The Country Girls, 1960

(Great Characters in Literature)

Caithleen (Kate) Brady

Caithleen (Kate) Brady, a young Irish country girl. At the age of fourteen, Kate finds romance in the person of Mr. Gentleman. That year, however, her mother dies, and Kate finds herself homeless. Kate spends three relatively happy years at a convent school after winning a scholarship to go there. When she is expelled, she loses her chance to attend college. Instead, with her friend Baba, she goes to Dublin, where she works in a grocery store. When Mr. Gentleman breaks off their love affair, Kate thinks her life is over.

Bridget “Baba” Brennan

Bridget “Baba” Brennan, a pretty, spoiled young woman. As a child, she uses Kate as a target for her cruelty; at the convent, she finds Kate to be a useful confidante and confederate. Selfishly, Baba decides to get Kate, as well as herself, expelled so that the two of them can move to Dublin. In Dublin, she enrolls in a business course, but she is really interested only in men and what she can get out of them. After contracting tuberculosis, Baba leaves for a sana-torium.

Mrs. Brady (Mama)

Mrs. Brady (Mama), Kate’s mother, a loving, devout woman. When she learns that her husband is about to lose the farm, she goes out to borrow money. On her way home, she is accidentally drowned.

Mr. Brady (Dada)

Mr. Brady (Dada), Kate’s father, an irresponsible, abusive drunkard. He sells his property to pay his debts.

Jacques de Maurier

Jacques de Maurier, called Mr. Gentleman, a wealthy, middle-aged French solicitor. After courting Kate for years, he breaks off with her without ever consummating their relationship.

Martha Brennan

Martha Brennan, Baba’s mother, an attractive woman who is bored with her husband. She amuses herself by drinking and flirting. Martha is kind to Kate, giving her a home after the death of her mother.

Mr. Brennan

Mr. Brennan, Baba’s father, a veterinarian. He sometimes hints to Kate that he wishes Baba were more like her. When Kate’s father hits her, Mr. Brennan throws him out of the house.

The Lonely Girl, 1962

(Great Characters in Literature)

Caithleen (Kate) Brady

Caithleen (Kate) Brady, , who, after two years in Dublin, meets Eugene Gaillard. Dragged home by her father, Kate escapes and goes to live with Gaillard at his country house. When her father’s second attempt to reclaim her fails, Kate settles in, pretending to be Gaillard’s wife. The lovers quarrel constantly. Finally, Kate leaves Gaillard and moves to London.

Eugene Gaillard

Eugene Gaillard, a film director who is separated from his wife. Though charmed by Kate’s youth and innocence, Gaillard is too controlled not to be annoyed by her emotional outbursts. He is also concerned about his wife’s threats to deny him future contacts with their daughter. When Kate leaves, he does not pursue her.

Girls in Their Married Bliss, 1964

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bridget “Baba” Brennan Durack

Bridget “Baba” Brennan Durack, who is now living in London with her husband. Over his protests, she keeps going to Kate’s rescue. When she finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand, Baba turns to Kate for advice, tells Frank, and has the baby.

Frank Durack

Frank Durack, Baba’s husband, a wealthy contractor. He sees the unstable Kate as the real danger to his marriage and social standing. He has to face the fact that his wife is pregnant by another man. He agrees to accept the child as his but takes refuge in alcohol.

Caithleen (Kate) Brady

Caithleen (Kate) Brady, who became pregnant during a second involvement with Gaillard. They were married. The marriage, however, is a failure. Kate has an affair, Gaillard finds out, and she leaves him, taking their son, Cash. Emotionally fragile, she lives for Cash. After Gaillard takes him away, she has herself sterilized so that she will have no more children.

Eugene Gaillard

Eugene Gaillard, Kate’s husband. Although he loves Cash, he hates Kate bitterly. To get him away from his mother, he snatches Cash from school and takes him to Fiji.

Cash Gaillard

Cash Gaillard, the son of Kate and Eugene Gaillard, a pawn in the conflict between them.


Maura, a young girl employed by the Gaillards who takes Kate’s place. She goes to Fiji with Eugene and Cash.

Epilogue, 1986

(Great Characters in Literature)

Bridget “Baba” Brennan Durack

Bridget “Baba” Brennan Durack, who during the past twenty years has had a daughter and seen her turn out as defiant as her mother. Baba has never been faithful to Frank, but since his stroke, she has nursed him devotedly. After being out of touch for many years, she and Kate again became friends. Baba is fulfilling her final obligation to her friend, taking her in a casket to be buried.

Caithleen (Kate) Brady Gaillard

Caithleen (Kate) Brady Gaillard, who won her legal battle to have Cash returned to England but lost him again when he went to Harvard. After being rejected by another married man, she killed herself.


(Great Characters in Literature)

America. Review. CLV (October 18, 1986), pp. 212-213.

Broyard, Anatole. “The Rotten Luck of Kate and Baba.” The New York Times Book Review, May 11, 1986, 12. O’Brien is the subject of little scholarly attention; with the exception of Grace Eckley’s work (below), she is the subject of no book-length study. This one-page, hostile review of the trilogy finds both women antipathetic and in their “furious passivity” a “powerful [negative] argument for feminism.”

Eckley, Grace. Edna O’Brien. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1974. This work is an excellent, though brief, sympathetic study. It needs to be updated, however, in its primary and secondary materials.

O’Brien, Edna. “The Art of Fiction: Edna O’Brien.” Interview by Shusha Guppy. Paris Review 26 (Summer, 1984): 22-50. A lengthy and comprehensive interview including O’Brien’s views of women writers and her own place in the literary continuum.

O’Brien, Edna. “A Conversation with Edna O’Brien.” Interview by Philip Roth. The New York Times Book Review, November 18, 1984, 38-40. A lengthy, perceptive, restrained, and generally sympathetic interview. Elicits revealing personal avowals from O’Brien: “The man still has the greater authority and the greater autonomy.”

O’Brien, Edna. “Why Irish Heroines Don’t Have to Be Good Anymore.” The New York Times Book Review, May 11, 1986, 13. In a one-page article, O’Brien comments on her choice to let the “asperity” of Baba finish the trilogy—“lyricism had to go.”

Salter, Mary Jo. “Exiles from Romance.” The New Republic 194 (June 30, 1986): 36-38. Salter finds the first part of the trilogy best, but she comes away even from the final “soap opera” feeling “at least a little glad.”