Gar goes off the see ‘the boys’ and Madge makes it clear that she does not like them when she criticises the fact that they have not made the effort to come see him on his last night. She also makes fun of them by asking how many of them are on the pension.
When Gar leaves, Madge tries to talk to S.B. who is sitting looking at his newspaper. She criticises him for taking out his false teeth and complains about the amount of work she has to do. S.B. is puzzled by her behaviour. He continues to read the paper as Madge gives out and eventually Madge leaves the stage. When Madge leaves, S.B. realises that he’s holding the paper upside down. He turns it around to read but can’t and ends up looking across at Gar’s room and sighing.
The scene is interrupted by the sound of the boys’ exaggerated laughter as they burst onto the stage. The stage directions highlight how they are pretending to live exciting and adventurous lives but there is a falseness to their behaviour. The group is led by Ned, who pretends to be a tough, womanising alpha-male. Tom is his right-hand man, who laughs at all his jokes and backs up all his stories. Joe is the third member of the group and is torn between his loyalty to Gar and his loyalty to the other two.
Ned talks continuously about how he’s going to ‘put the fear of God up them bastards,” referring to the game they have at the weekend. It is clear that this type of bravado is something that he engages in regularly as a way of showing how masculine he is.
Madge comes in and says, you finally made it, to which Joe replies, “true to our word Madge, that’s us.” Gar tells Madge that the boys were on their way when he met them, but she doesn’t seem to believe him.
Gar tries to talk to the boys about him leaving for America, but every time he does, Ned interrupts with some story of girl he’s been with. It’s clear that he does not want to acknowledge the fact that Gar is leaving his old life behind, which highlights just how boring their lives are. We also see his attitude towards women when he says, “were any of youse ever on that job?” referring to a girl he had been with. He continues, “I had her for the fortnight she was home last year and she damned near killed me.”
Gar Public, sick of Ned’s ramblings decides to take him on and accuses Ned of making the story about ‘Big Annie’ up. He says that he was never with her. We see that Tom is quick to come to Ned’s rescue by backing up his story. Private starts to reflect on the boys, thinking that it wasn’t always like this. It is more of a question than a statement.
Gar, once again tries to bring up going away and Ned decides to talk about the night down at the beach with the two Dublin girls and how ‘Wee Jimmy Crerand” who was five foot nothing and scared of his shadow. Ned and Joe claim that they went swimming naked and that the girls pulled the trousers off Jimmy. “Wee Jimmy coming across the white strand and the two Dublin cows haring after him.” Gar Public doesn’t take part in the conversation as Ned says he wasn’t there but Private tells the audience that he was there and that the events unfolded very differently to how Ned told them.
Private tells us that they were all there and that they peeped out at the two girls who sat on the rocks dangling their feet. He says that they went to swim at the other end of the strand like schoolboys and that Ned thought it would be funny to try to take the trousers off wee Jimmy but Jimmy who was ‘scared of his shadow,’ stood up to Ned and they all went home that night, scared to talk to the two women.
Public again tries to bring up the issue of him leaving but again Ned finds another conversation to ensure they don’t talk about it. Ned then decides that they should head out for the night and while Tom is eager to go along with Ned, Joe doesn’t want to leave Gar. As they’re leaving they put their money together and it’s clear that they don’t have much money.
As they are about to leave, Ned stops, takes off his belt and throws it at Gar. He seems embarrassed to do this but explains that he didn’t have the money to get him a present because his father didn’t sell the cow at the mart so the belt is his going away present. He tells him that there is a big buckle on it in case he gets in trouble. Here we see that Ned does care about Gar. Tom tries to get everyone thinking about the night out and take the attention away from Gar, which makes Ned roar at him, “Christ, if there’s one get I hate, it’s you.” It is clear that like Gar, Ned is reliant in his father for money and has little independence.
Ned goes off quickly and Tom goes after him but Joe stays behind, wanting to spend more time with Gar. Gar tells him to go after the boys as tonight could be their lucky night. Joe tells Gar that he wishes he could go to Philadelphia and Gar tells him that there’s nothing stopping him, to which he replies, “mammy planted sycamore trees last year, and she says I can’t go till they’re tall enough to shelter the house.” Gar replies sarcastically that he’ll be stuck for another few days. This highlights the immaturity of the young men and their reliance on their parents.
Before Joe goes, he tells Gar to tell Madge that the next time she invites them up for tea, they’d better get it, which shows that Madge went out of her way to get the boys to visit, as she knew Gar wanted to see them. It also highlights that the boys were not going to come see him on his last night.
After they leave, Private calls the boys, “louts, ignorant bloody louts.” Gar is thankful that Aunt Lizzy has saved him from wasting his life in this way, sitting outside the hotel, watching the lights go out and the door bolting. Not wanting to go home, hoping that something exciting was going to happen but it never did. By the end of the monologue, Gar has changed his attitude, he says, “Joe and Tom and big thick, generous Ned…No one will ever know or understand the fun there was; for there was fun, there was laughing-foolish, silly fun and foolish silly laughing.”
Private then reflects that all he has now are memories and that when he leaves, these memories will be, “precious, precious gold.”
- What do you learn from the fact S.B. was sitting with the newspaper upside down in this scene?
- Describe ‘the boys’ using specific reference to the text.
- What is your impression of Ned? Use examples from the text to support your answer.
- Why do you think the boys don’t want to discuss Gar leaving?
- Ned and Private tell the same story but with very different versions. What are the major differences? What does this show us about human behaviour?
- What do you learn about the attitude towards women from this scene? Use quotes from the text to back up your answer.
- “The boys are good friends to Gar.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement. Back up your opinion using appropriate reference to the text.