Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Originally appearing in 1830 in The Dublin Literary Gazette as “Confessions of a Reformed Ribbonman,” the story was retitled “Wildgoose Lodge” in the second series of William Carleton’s Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry (1830-1833). Although Carleton was not actually present at the atrocity, in the last paragraph, he addresses the reader directly, saying that a few months later he saw the bodies of the Captain and all those actively involved in the massacre hanging from a gibbet near the scene of the horror. In a final footnote, he says, “This tale of terror is, unfortunately, too true.” He explains that the reason for the punishment was that shortly before the fatal night, the murdered family accused and convicted some of their fellow Ribbonmen of theft and assault. “Wildgoose Lodge” is therefore not a story of Irish sectarian conflict; both the murderers and the murdered family are Catholic. Carleton’s purpose in this story is not to make a political point but rather to horrify the reader by combining an account of actual events with the conventions of the nineteenth century tale of terror.

Carleton creates a thematically appropriate atmosphere surrounding the events by describing the day as gloomy and tempestuous. Moreover, the fact that the meeting in which the murders are planned takes place in a church and involves ceremonies of brotherhood is perceived to be bitterly ironic to the narrator. This ironic...

(The entire section is 492 words.)