Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 418

Like “Home Sickness,” another story appearing in George Moore’s An Untilled Field (1903), “So On He Fares” centers on a protagonist caught between two worlds—in this case, between home and the adventurous world just beyond his garden gate, between the confines of his mother’s discipline and his exciting dreams. Ulick’s mother wants him to know no other place beyond his garden gate. It literally becomes the barrier between him and everything else that he might experience. She is not merely protecting him from the canal, from the possibility of drowning, or from being misled by children and strangers; she is deliberately harnessing him to her will. She has shut out the rest of the world—the world represented by his father’s soldiering. Ulick’s father is always “away.” His mother is always home.

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That Ulick’s mother is the only local resident to give her cottage a name and to put that name on her gate symbolizes her isolation and haughtiness. She has made Ulick shy of others, and it takes every bit of resentment that he has to make him run away from home. If he is not cowed by his mother’s harsh words and physical violence (she slaps him often), it is because of his imagination, his ability to conceive of other worlds and to realize that he will grow only by reaching for them.

Ulick’s imagination is emphasized when he is aboard the barge, running away from home. There he cunningly makes up the story about running away from Shannon. As the barge approaches his “home,” he pretends to identify his cottage only to say that he has been mistaken, thus prolonging his journey away from his mother.

When the adult Ulick returns to Hill Cottage, the wisdom of his decision to leave home is confirmed. His hostile mother has no imagination whatsoever, no ability to identify with the injured boy. Her new son has been treated better—she does not hit him—but like the older Ulick once was, he is shy and subdued, wanting to know about the world and to hear Ulick’s stories, just as the older Ulick once wanted to hear about adventures from his father. However, Ulick must take his younger brother into the garden in order to tell him the stories, because he senses that his mother does not like to hear his voice. His only choice is to go on, to “fare,” for home represents the inhibition of all his desires.

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