Characters in Dancing at Lughnasa

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  • Created by: joanne
  • Created on: 15-05-13 19:36

Kate Mundy

  • Eldest of the sisters & the main provider for the family. 
  • Authoritarian role: Prevents them from going to the harvest dance "Look at yourselves, will you! Just look at yourselves!  Dancing at our time of day? That's for young people with no duties and no responsibilites and nothing in their heads but pleasure" (p.13)
  • Devout Catholic: Kate feels it is her responisbility to maintain a practicing Catholic household. For example, she is flabbergasted at Jack's mentionning of pagan rituals and attempts to force him into saying mass again "So you'll soon begin saying Mass again?"  (p.46).  She calls the songs Maggie sings 'aul pagain songs' (p.35) However it is sad and ironic that in the end she is let down by the Catholic church as she loses her job. 
  • She was involved with the war of independence, which is why she is such a great supporter of the 1936 Republic's constitution,  she dismisses the value of unpaid housework, which mirrors the legislative paternal government of Ireland. "You'll buy it out of your glove money, will you? I thought what you and Rose earned knitting gloves was barely sufficient to clothe the pair of you" (p.23) Kate does not appreciate Agnes' work. 
  • She is a loving and generous aunt who really does care about Michael. "Come and give your Aunt Kate a big kiss." (p.9)
  • Contrasting Kate:  As the sole provider, she puts pressure on herself to look after her family, responsibility takes its toll and she confides in Maggie "Suddenly you realize that hair cracks are appearing everywhere; that control is slipping away; that the whole thing is so fragile it can't be held together much longer." (p. 35) Thus she hides behind this optimistic mask that everything will be okay, secretly she knows that she cannot cure Jack's believes and that she won't be able to provide for the family for much longer.
  • Ironic: in the end she loses all power (deeply sad) as she ends up tutoring the children of Austin Morgan, someone we know she had secret desires for. 
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Maggie Mundy

  • Joker & the peace-maker: Maggie uses her humour to diffuse tense situations. Kate describes how the parish priest won't look her in the eye anymore, Maggie: "That's because you keep winking at him, Kate" (p.16) She has a playful and entertaining relationship with Michael. 
  • Provides balance in the household: Maggie acts pragmatically when Rose goes missing, she is firm and is the only sister not to lose their temper with Kate; "That'll do, Kate! Stop that at once! (Calmly) She may be in the town. She may be on her way home now. She may have taken a weak turn on her way back from the quarry" (p. 56) Maggie is a calm, natural leader. 
  • Hidden desires: Despite dressing in an unattractive, unfeminine way ('drab, wrap-around overall' and 'large boots') Maggie has hidden desires to be loved by a man. She becomes uncharacteristically quiet when Kate mentions Bernie O'donnell, perhaps secretly jealous and sad at the thought of herself still stuck in Ballybeg with her sisters. 
  • Natural leader: She leads the wild dance, perhaps because she has the most pent-up sexual frustration, she "pulls her hands down her cheeks and patterns her face with an instant mask" (p.21) it's as if she has to disguise herself and cover up who she is in order to break out and dance. 
  • In denial? Perhaps Maggie's light-hearted approach to their situation is a way of preventing herself from fully engaging with her and her sisters' problems, she never fully engages with Kate's worries, maybe she is in denial about the realities of life as she ignores unpleasant situations. Michael describes at the end "Maggie pretended to believe that nothing had changed."  (p.70)
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Agnes Mundy

  • Endlessly patient and kind to Rose: Paired through the play, Agnes is gentle, kind and understanding of her sister. "Rosie, love, we were beginning to get worried about you" (p. 57) when Rose returns from going missing, she does not probe her sister like Kate does, she knows that Rose won't respond to being challenged. 
  • Agnes never applies for the job at the knitting factory, "Perhaps Agnes made the decision for both of them because she knew Rose wouldn't have got work there anyway" (p.59) She doesn't want to hurt Rose as she knows Rose wouldn't be able to get work at the factory. 
  • Hidden passion: Agnes has a secret longing for Gerry Evans, "You're a superb dancer" (p.65) They have a flirty relationship. She defends Gerry when Kate belittles him "Do you ever listen to yourself, Kate? You are such a damned righteous *****! And his name is Gerry! - Gerry! - Gerry!" (p.34) 
  • Desperate for control: Agnes wants to go to the harvest dance, she is desperate to have fun "I want to dance, Kate. It's the Festival of Lughnasa. I'm only thirty-five. I want to dance" (p. 13) - She hates being controlled by Kate. She feels unappreciated and frustrated,  "What you have here, Kate, are two unpaid servants." (p. 24) perhaps this is why she leaves Ballybeg in the end. 
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Rose Mundy

  • Childlike/simple: Mentally challenged which means she can be unintentionally and persistently insensitive, "You wanted to see Austin Morgan!" ..."Because you have a notion of that aul Austin Morgan!"..."Why are you blushing then? She's blushing, isn't she?" (p. 10) 
  • Reliant on Agnes: She seeks approval and reassurance from Agnes. "Where's Stockholm, Aggie?" (p.19) 
  • Stubborn and independent: Meets up with Danny Bradley and goes to Lough Anna, upon her return she refuses to say what she has been doing "And that's all I'm going to tell you." (p.59)
  • Another constraint: The sisters feel they need to look after and protect Rose, her disappearance in Act 2 allows Friel to create pathos and drama among the other sisters, her vulnerability allows tension and anxiety to be created when she disappers. An emotionl climax is created after a build up of dramatic tension. 
  • Her role: To force the audience into questionning the relationships within the sisterhood. Michael explains what happens to Rose which makes the remainder of her of her time on stage deeply sad, especially as we see how happy she is after being with Danny Bradley. 
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Chris Mundy

  • Unmarried mother: Chris has had a child out of wedlock which is considered sinful by the Catholic church. She is no more openly affectionate to Michael than any of her sisters, perhaps Frield wants to show that Michael's bond with all the sister's are all of equal strength.
  • Vulnerable: Her weak spot is her continued love for Gerry Evans, when he arrives she panics "Look at my hands, Kate - I'm shaking" (p.25). He woos her with his dancing and she falls for him all over again. She becomes jealous when Gerry dances with Agnes, afterwards when he requests to dance with Chris she replies "(sharply) Not now." (p.65) 
  • Independent: Chris doesn't  care about religion or the Catholic church. (she holds up a surplice) "Make a nice dress that, wouldn't it?...God forgive me..." (p.3) 
  • Unhappy ending: She has a sad life, she is strung along by Gerry and then left agin. Her life has a sad ending, working in a knitting factory where she 'hates every day of it.'
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Jack Mundy

  • Frail: Shrunken, weak old man, ill with malaria. He has returned from Ryanga in Uganda because he 'went native' instead of doing his job of converting Africans to Catholicism.
  • Pagan: He tells stories of his time in Ryanga and of the ritual ceremonies he participated in, he refused to obey the dictates of his superiors in the Catholic church and so was dismissed. 
  • Another constraint: The sisters feel they must care for him. Kate "And who'd look after Father Jack?" (p.12) He is a disappointment to the family causing the Catholic church to resent the family. Before > "it was only natural our family would enou a small share of that fame - it gave us that little bit of status in the eyes of the parish"  (p.9)  After "I met the parish priest. I don't know what has happened to that man. But ever since Father Jack came home he can hardly look me in the eye" (p.16) The reality of Jack is completely different to Michael's expections. 
  • Reason for failure: If Jack hadn't diverged from Catholicism then Kate would have kept her job. 
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Gerry Evans

  • Charmer: Uses his charm as a defence mechanism to avoid unpleasant realities, for example he ignores Chris' frosty attitude when he first arrives "You're looking wonderful, Chrissie. Really great. Terrific." (p.27) Agnes is also deeply affected by Gerry's charm "You should be a professional dancer." (p.65)
  • Selfish and self-absorbed: He spends the majority of his time talking about himself and what he has been doing, it adds contrast to the play as it highlights how boring and uninteresting the sister's lives are. He contradicts himself too, "I've started a new career as a matter of interest. Never been busier." (p.28) ..."Good God, no!" (p.31) 
  • Irresponsible father: Accidentally turned up in Ballybeg "Last night in a bar in Sligo. Bump into this chappie with a brand new Morris Cowlet who lets slip that he's heading for Ballybeg in the morning. So here I am!" (p.26) Gerry shows hardly any interest in Michael "Don't turn round; but he's watching us from behind that bush"(....)"pretend you don't notice" (p.29)  "Each time he proposed to mother and promised me a new bike." (p.61)
  • Childish: He exaggerates and lies. He sounds like a small child when telling Chris about his success at dancing. "I had thousands of pupils - millions!" (p.28) He's hyperbole, dramatic and over the top, Michael describes how "with both hands he blew a dozen theatrical kisses" after "dancing down the lane swinging his walking stick." (p.61) Nevertheless, Gerry is a amusing character for the audience to watch.
  • Refuses to be tied down: Gerry has so much freedom compared to the sisters who are tied to their home by family bonds and responsibilities. Gerry doesn't see why he should be limited in this way, which is typical of all of the male characters. The irony is that he is one of the happiest characters in the play. 
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Michael Mundy

  • Narrator: Gives the play itself structure, his monologues give the audience additonal information and insight as well as filling in gaps for them too. For example, he tells them about Rose and Agnes' future which makes the rest of the play appear more tragic. He answers as 'Boy' which appears to create distance between Michael and the sisters on stage.
  • Memory: The play is based on his memory, it ends when Michael's memory begins to fade as the first character forgets something; Maggie: "Because it...because it alwats...because a parrot...God! I've forgotten!" (p.70) 
  • Character Michael: Is adored by his mother and aunts. He has a playful relationship with Maggie which provides comedy for the audience. Moreover, he highlights traits in the sisters, e.g. he brings out Kate's protective side. He is one of the only positive, promising, bright things in the sister's lives.
  • A constraint: Born out of wedlock, Michael brings serious shame on his family. He is used to show the trap of Catholicism for these sisters- emphasising the limits of De Valera's consititution. The 1990s audience may be able to empathise. 
  • Invisibility: Because 'Boy' Michael doesn't actually appear on stage, more emphasis is put on the characters who are interacting with him, this creates a compelling, theatrical spectable whilst also reminding the audience that this play is illusory.
  • Another male who escapes: Michael has no responsibilities, he explains "and when my time came to go away, in the selfish way of young men I was happy to escape" (p.71)
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