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Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 172

The most important theme of “The Will” emerges from the contrast between outward appearance and inner reality. All but Lally are concerned with social respectability, with appearances only. Nonny says, “I don’t know why you were so anxious to marry him when it meant keeping lodgers.” Only Lally knows what is real and what is primary: “It was the other way around, . . . I was willing to keep lodgers because it meant I could marry him.” For her, the unchanging self within, relationships with others, and the feeling and knowledge of others are real. The others can never act without an eye to what others will say or think, and therefore they can have no immediate or spontaneous feelings. They are trapped by their worship of mere appearance. In contrast, Lally remains free to do what seems right and important, whether it be helping a new lodger move in, marrying someone of whom her family does not approve, or trying to lift her mother out of Purgatory with her dearly bought masses.

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