Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 481
“A Wet Day” is a subtle story that explores several conflicts. The first is between the young narrator and her aunt. This young person has been to the university and has acquired ideas that are considered radical in her small Irish village. The most radical of these is her lack of respect for the Roman Catholic clergy. Her estimate of a person’s worth does “not allow credit for round collars or tussore.” She judges the person and not the office, and thus contrasts with her aunt, who is afraid to offend the local priest, Father Gogarty. The aunt respects the priest because of his position and never questions his moral character.
In the first scene, Father Gogarty visits the aunt to get some vegetables from her. The aunt carefully keeps her niece away from the priest so that she will not make a troublesome scene, even though doing so results in her and her niece getting wet.
The garden setting is repeatedly described as wet and sodden. This troubles the priest, who spent his early years studying for the priesthood in the balmy confines of Rome and now suffers greatly from the wet and unhealthy environment in which he lives. A diabetic, Father Gogarty can eat only vegetables—primarily cabbage and rhubarb. This wins him the sympathy of not only the aunt, but also her niece and the whole village.
Mike, the gardener, is also fond of Father Gogarty and goes out of his way to provide him with vegetables. He sympathizes with the priest’s plight and encourages him to persevere. Father Gogarty occasionally despairs about his condition and diet, but, with Mike’s encouragement, he comes to see that it is his duty to take care of himself.
The story changes after Father Gogarty asks Mike about a friend from his home town of Mullingar who has died recently. The young man was engaged to marry Father Gogarty’s niece Lottie. During a visit the young man became seriously ill and Lottie wanted him to stay at Father Gogarty’s rectory because it would be dangerous for him to return to Dublin in a cold car. Father Gogarty revealed his selfish nature by denying the young man shelter in order to protect his own health. After everyone agreed to decide the issue by the question of whether the young man had a temperature, Father Gogarty lied about not having a thermometer and sent the sick man away in a cold car. The young man had pneumonia and soon died.
This scene revealed Father Gogarty’s character. Selfish rather than pastoral, he is interested only in protecting himself. This exposure of his true nature changes the attitude of the aunt about Father Gogarty, and her relationship with her niece improves. They have fewer fights and resolve their earlier conflicts after both judge Father Gogarty to be an ineffectual priest.