Episode III-S.B. plays draughts with the Canon

The Canon comes in to play his nightly draughts game with S.B. He appears to be a jolly man who laughs continuously at Madge’s jibe that he waits until the rosary is over and the kettle is on.

Like the dinner with S.B., Gar is able to predict what the Canon is going to say, highlighting the predictability of life in Ballybeg for Gar. When he asks S.B. how the O’Donnell family are, S.B. responds by saying, “living away as usual, not a thing happening,” completely ignoring the fact that Gar is leaving forever.

The Canon does bring up Gar’s departure by saying that his time is coming closer but S.B., just like Ned did in a previous episode, changes the subject back to the game of draughts.

The Canon and S.B. discuss the weather and how much money they’re willing to bet on the game. Gar, speaking to Madge tells her to go visit the new baby. Madge doesn’t want to go because it’s Gar’s last night but eventually gives in and goes off to see the new baby that she hopes is named after her. Before she leaves, Gar asks her why his mother married S.B. instead of Master Boyle, to which Madge replies, “she married the better man by far.” He asks if that is the reason that Boyle started drinking

Private is annoyed with Gar for asking those questions and tells the audience, “we want no scenes tonight,” meaning he doesn’t want to start getting sentimental about going away.

With Madge gone, Private stands at the table between S.B. and the Canon and acts a commentator for the game. “County Councillor versus Canon. Screwballs versus Canonballs.” He stares at the two of them and asks them if they’ll miss him. It is clear that Gar wants to hear his father say that he’ll miss him, he wants his father to acknowledge his going away in some form. In a jibe at the church, Gar looks at the Canon and says, “Money! Agh, sure, Canon, what interest have you in money? Sure as long as you get to Tenerife for five weeks every winter, what interest have you in money?” Again we see how Gar is fixated on money as it is the reason he could do marry Kate Doogan.

Gar continues to mock the Canon and there is anger in his voice when he tells the audience that he should be the person who could ‘translate all this loneliness, this groping, this dreadful bloody buffoonery into Christian terms that will make life bearable for us all.” Here we see how desperate Gar is to connect with his father but is unable to, as he does not know how. He is angry with the Canon, as it is job and he sees the relationship that the two of them have, but he does not intervene.

Private continues bearing his soul in this scene when he tells the audience, once again, about the memory of the boat on the lake. But Private tells us that he is confused now by the memory. “Because he wonders now did it really take place or did he imagine it? There are only the two of us…each of us is all the other has; and why can we not even look at each other?” Gar Private finishes his monologue with a very telling line, “to hell with all strong silent men.”

The last part of this scene sees S.B. and the Canon talking about Gar and his love of his records. His going away is brought up and there is an opening for S.B. to discuss his feelings but the Canon shuts this down by bringing up what Madge said earlier in the evening. It is clear that the Canon does not want to discuss issues like this, highlighting what Gar was angry about earlier in the scene.

The scene ends with the Canon telling S.B. that there is hope for him yet but the comment takes on a double meaning and S.B. responds, “I don’t know is there.” S.B. may be wondering if it is too late to talk to Gar.

Questions:

  1. Gar is able to predict a lot of Canon O’Byrne is going to say. What does this show you about life in Ballybeg?
  2. What point is Gar making when he says the Canon has no interest in money as long as he gets to Tenerife for five weeks in the winter?
  3. Why is Gar angry with the Canon?
  4. Do you think that the Canon could intervene in S.B. and Gar’s relationship?
  5. “To hell with all strong silent men.” What does Gar mean in this line? Do you think the playwright was trying to send a message here?
  6. Do you think S.B. wanted to talk about Gar leaving at the end of the scene? Explain your answer.

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