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Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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...

(The entire section is 652 words.)