Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Though at first “Everything in This Country Must” appears to be simply a story of rural life, it becomes clear as the history of the family tragedy is parceled out that the story’s main theme is the tenuous relationship between the people of rural Northern Ireland and the British military forces that occupy the region. Notably, the story is not overtly political; neither side is praised or demonized. Colum McCann’s concern is not with the political tensions in Northern Ireland but with their effects on individuals on both sides.

Katie’s father is right to be distrustful of the British soldiers—there is a longstanding history of animosity between the predominantly Roman Catholic rural Northern Irish citizenry and the British soldiers who are charged with keeping the peace. Presumably, soldiers like these, in a truck similar to the one that they drive, accidentally killed the farmer’s wife and son. Though his treatment of these soldiers is unfair, it is also understandable. His behavior embarrasses his daughter, but by providing the reader with a context for it in the family’s tragic history, the author allows the reader to view her father with sympathy rather than judgment, even when he brutally shoots the horse everyone has worked so hard to save.

Katie, the narrator and protagonist, is clearly central to the story. She is fifteen years old and awkwardly tall. Her father is extremely aware of her fragile adolescent innocence...

(The entire section is 527 words.)