Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Boy, a sixteen-year-old. He has accompanied his father too long, wandering through the Irish countryside. He feels like a packhorse, burdened with his father’s bundle, and is tired of listening to the Old Man’s continuous talking. The boy shows only vague interest in his father’s description of the ruins of an old house before them. Considering his father silly, he ignores questions about their surroundings, for these merely delay their reaching a destination. He obeys his father’s command to stand in the doorway to look for someone inside the house’s shell, but he cannot see what his father sees there. Arguing with the Old Man’s insistence that someone is, in fact, inside, the bored boy describes what he sees: emptiness, with only a piece of eggshell, doubtlessly dropped out of a bird’s nest. He dismisses as lunatic ravings the Old Man’s musings about purgatorial spirits returning to their earthly homes. Only when the Old Man identifies the house as their family’s does the boy show interest. He challenges his father’s condemnation of his grandmother’s hasty marriage choice, defending his grandfather’s luck in getting both the woman and her money. His interest in the Old Man’s story is not in the stormy relationships but in the bounty it evokes: a young woman, horses, a rich library, clothing, and drink. He resents the Old Man having enjoyed wealth and learning without passing any on to him. Intrigued that he is the same age as his father was when the great house burned, the boy chooses that moment to ask about whisperings he had heard on their travels that the Old Man had murdered his dissolute father. His interest in violence links him to his father and grandfather. When the Old Man is lost in a vision of the grandmother and grandfather having sex, the boy grasps the moment to steal the Old Man’s bundle of money, in an obvious parallel to the grandfather who seized the grandmother’s estate. Selfishly, the boy...

(The entire section is 804 words.)