Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 652
Paddy Maguire has just been appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister for roads and railways, and his wife, Molly, is very proud. Paddy and Molly are in the autumn of their sometimes difficult lives, and they believe it is time to have a bit of comfort in their old age. Their early lives appear to have been difficult. Paddy was in and out of prison during the 1920’s because of Irish politics and the revolution, while Molly was left alone to raise the children. Money had been tight, so she needed help from Prisoners’ Dependents’ funds. Now they have the money and position to enjoy life.
The first thing Molly asks for is a fur coat. Desiring the coat but not wishing to seem extravagant, she wants Paddy to understand that she deserves it because of who she is, rather than his buying her the coat because he attained a position of importance. The distinction between these two points is important to Molly, yet Paddy is oblivious to the potential for conflict.
Molly spends a long time trying to convince Paddy that a fur coat would be practical because she has neither the time nor the clothes to dress appropriately for the parties and receptions that they will now have to attend. With a fur coat, she could look respectable despite whatever dress or suit she wears underneath; in her own mind, Molly believes that she can justify the fur coat because she would not spend money on new clothes, and she would not take time away from the house or the family to get ready for events. At first Paddy thinks that a fur coat is a grand idea and is excited about the possibility of Molly parading around with something special on her shoulders for people to see. He has achieved a distinguished position and can afford to give his wife a luxurious token. Now, however, he believes that a fur coat is not grand, but useful, and is no longer interested in the conversation. He tells Molly to buy the coat because it will keep her warm. This is not good enough for Molly, because she believes that Paddy still does not understand that she deserves the coat, and she still detects “a touch of the bravo, as if he was still feeling himself a great fellow” for offering to buy the coat. Molly is unable to drop the discussion of the fur coat. She wants the coat more than anything but is powerless to accept it. Because Molly appears to have an elaborate understanding of the different types of furs, Paddy questions how long she has desired such a coat. This flusters Molly; whenever he gets close to the truth, she gets angry.
Paddy finally insists it is time for Molly to decide if she is going to get the fur coat. She jumps up, throws a basket at him, and screams, “Stop it! I told you I don’t want a fur coat! And you don’t want me to get a fur coat! You’re too mean, that’s what it is!” The conversation about the coat finally ends: Molly is in her room sobbing, and Paddy is sitting at his table cold with anger. Paddy has remained calm throughout the many discussions about the coat but being called mean is more than he can tolerate.
Paddy and Molly do not speak for three days; on the morning of the fourth day, Molly finds a check for 150 pounds, which makes her heart leap. Unfortunately, the good feeling leaves immediately, but it makes her realize that the problem is not with Paddy as much as with herself. The story ends with Molly knowing that she wants a coat more than anything but also knowing that she will never have it. The reason for the internal conflict within Molly is not obvious to either Paddy or Molly.
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