Style and Technique
Like other Moore stories, “So On He Fares” is notable for its economical style, which is at once descriptive and symbolic. At the beginning of the story, for example, the narrator describes Ulick watching how the “boats rose up in the locks, how the gate opened and let the boats free.” Ulick himself wants to rise up; he wants to open his garden gate so that he can be free. Not surprisingly, in the same moment that Ulick watches the boats, he thinks of his father, who has gone away to war on one of the barges. Ulick associates the idea of being free with leaving home. He is buoyed by the vision of boats rising to the surface, like his own soaring imagination. Moreover, the initial image of the canal foreshadows Ulick’s own plunge into the water, in which he sinks, only to rise and to be brought aboard by the bargeman. Ulick goes through a kind of symbolic death in order to be reborn. He risks his life in order really to live.
The symbolism of the boats is deftly handled. It becomes a part of the story’s theme even as it functions naturally as part of Ulick’s experience. Indeed, plot, theme, and symbolism seem naturally integrated—as they are in the story’s title. “So On He Fares” captures Ulick’s need to be on the move, for standing still, staying at home, means a kind of death.
After Ulick makes his disappointing visit home, he again leaves on a barge. From its deck he sees the evening sky “opened calm and benedictive.” He is out in the world again, and the very journey is a kind of blessing, enabling him to pass ruins, castles, and churches—the fixed record of history in the landscape—against which he can move and fare on. The story’s closing sentences, like the opening ones, describe what Ulick feels, but they are also symbolic, a metaphor for the meaning of his life.