Mrs. Breydon, a woman of the working class, roughly fifty years old, whose face and hands show the marks of hard work and the bitter struggle to maintain dignity and respectability in the lower-middle-class world of Dublin on the eve of World War I. Despite patched clothes and some scars from the effort to make a living and rear her son, Mrs. Breydon is still a woman of spirit and shows some signs of the handsomeness that she once possessed. Her chief concern in life is her son, whom she has reared virtually on her own; where his interests are involved, she displays a surprising shrewdness. She supports his commitment to the labor movement but fears for his safety in the coming strike. She also displays skepticism about Sheila Morneen’s willingness to make sacrifices for his causes.
Ayamonn Breydon, her son, a twenty-two-year-old idealist and visionary. Breydon, handsome and dramatic in his gestures, has talents in many areas: politics, the theater, writing, and painting. He aspires to be a Renaissance man, though some suggest that he may diffuse his energy by spending it on too many diverse enterprises. A railroad worker with high aspirations, Breydon hopes to awaken the working class to its cultural heritage while supporting efforts to better its economic condition. In the third act, Breydon’s dream vision of a Dublin transformed from dispirited poverty into an enchanted realm of beauty and dance provides a key to his character. Breydon lacks the experience to understand how much jealousy his courtship of Sheila, a Catholic girl, arouses in Inspector Finglas, or how much resentment the workers’ demand for an extra shilling increase in wages creates among their employers. As a result, Breydon’s involvement in the strike and, in particular, his willingness to speak in support of it at a public meeting lead to his tragic death.
Sheila Morneen, Ayamonn’s sweetheart, a beautiful but somewhat timid and conservative young lady who has been reared as a devout Roman Catholic. Because Breydon is a Protestant, his attraction for her is counterbalanced by a realization that he is not an acceptable suitor in the eyes of her parents. Although Sheila is fascinated by Breydon and considers his idealism attractive, she is frightened by his readiness to flout convention. She is also attracted to the fine uniform and authority of Inspector Finglas, and Mrs. Breydon shrewdly predicts that Sheila will never be content with a life of poverty. Sheila implores Breydon to disengage himself from the striking railroad workers and win the gratitude of his employers; she threatens to end their relationship if he refuses. After his tragic death, she has the spirit to denounce his murderers and those—like Inspector Finglas—whose indifference and neutrality allowed his murder to occur.
Brennan O’ The Moor
Brennan O’ The Moor,...
(The entire section is 1211 words.)