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Philadelphia, Here I Come!


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Brian Friel (b. 1929)

 

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A: Brian Friel Pf: 1964, Dublin Pb: 1965 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Gar's home, imaginary town of Ballybeg, County Donegal, Ireland, 1950s C: 11m, 3fTwenty-five-year-old Gareth (‘Gar’) O'Donnell works in his widowed father's grocery and is frustrated by his father's taciturn coldness and the constrictions of his home town, dominated by the Church. He is now excited at the prospect of freedom, because a childless aunt, Lizzy Sweeney, has invited him to join her in Philadelphia. On the eve of his departure, his two personae, ‘Public Gar’ and ‘Private Gar’, reminisce about his life, mixing happiness at the prospect of a new life with nostalgia for the old. While Private Gar passes cynical comments, Public Gar re-enacts moments from his past: his unhappy relationship with his father, S. B. O'Donnell, whose inability to communicate hides love for his son; his affection for the housekeeper Madge, a mother-substitute; the disappointment when Kate Doogan, the girl he loved, is forced by her parents to turn down Gar's offer of marriage. He joyfully recalls too his aunt's offer of a prosperous living in the States, while being repelled by the hollow materialism she represents. In the early hours of the morning, Gar and his father spend their last moments together, still unable to communicate but silently sharing happy memories from Gar's childhood.

A: Brian Friel Pf: 1964, Dublin Pb: 1965 G: Com. in 3 acts S: Gar's home, imaginary town of Ballybeg, County Donegal, Ireland, 1950s C: 11m, 3f

This play established Friel's reputation as a major Irish playwright and has become one of his most popular both on stage and as a film. It was one of the first plays to introduce a wider audience to small-town life in rural Ireland, which Friel views with a mixture of fondness and apprehension. While understanding the pressures on the young to emigrate, he also shows his concern over the kind of materialistic world to which they are escaping.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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