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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 580

Colum McCann’s words are carefully chosen to clearly show each character’s mindset and motivation for their actions. When Katie and her father are trying to save his favorite horse from drowning, McCann writes:

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Father was shouting Hold the rope, girl! and I could see his teeth clenched and his eyes wide and all the big veins in his neck, the same as when he walks the ditches of our farm, many cows, hedgerows, fences. Father is always all of fright for the losing of Mammy and Fiachra and now his horse, his favorite, a big Belgian mare that cut soil in the fields long ago.

This quote is significant because it shows how losing his wife and his son has affected Katie’s father. He has not come close to getting over it, and he lives in fear of losing something else. He struggles and strains to keep what he has left that he loves. This quote is also significant because it shows how much he loves the horse, and this is important because later he chooses to kill the horse rather than have a reminder of British soldiers helping him.

Katie’s father is desperate to save his horse when he sees the headlights of a truck coming to help. He becomes very excited, using “hai”—an Irish slang word which demonstrates his Irishness.

He dragged on the tree root and struggled out from the river and stood on the bank and his arms went up in the air like he was waving, shouting Over here over here, hai!

When he realizes the people arriving to help are British soldiers,

His head dropped way low to his chest and he looked across the river at me and I think what he was telling me was Drop the rope girl, but I didn’t. I kept it tight, holding the draft horse’s neck above the water, and all the time Father was saying but not saying Drop it please Katie, drop it, let her drown.

Katie’s father can’t bear to accept help from the people tied to his wife and son’s death. In fact, when the soldiers show even the smallest kindness to Katie, her father explodes.

LongGrasses was standing beside me and he put Stevie’s jacket on my shoulders to warm me, but then Father came over and he pushed LongGrasses away. Father pushed hard. He was smaller than LongGrasses but LongGrasses bashed into the trunk of the tree and hit against it.

After they have saved the horse, Katie invites the soldiers to their house for tea. Her father, not pleased, can barely contain himself while they are in his home. When one of the soldiers, Stevie, pays special attention to Katie, her father blows up and throws them out. He goes outside, and Katie hears him kill his horse; he can’t bear to have his horse saved by those he holds responsible for the death of his wife and son.

The ticking was gone from my mind and all was quiet everywhere in the world and I held the curtain like I held the sound of the bullets going into the draft horse, his favourite, in the barn, one two three, and I stood at the window in Stevie’s jacket and looked and waited and still the rain kept coming down outside one two three and I was thinking oh what a small sky for so much rain.

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