Edna O'Brien

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The Creature

O'Brien, Edna

Last Updated: Oct-11-2004
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story


The narrator, a schoolteacher substituting in a "stagnant, godforsaken little place" in the west of Ireland, meets an old woman that everyone in town calls "The Creature." She decides to visit The Creature and listens to her story, eventually becoming a regular weekly visitor at her hut.

The Creature is a widow who has two children: a daughter who lives in Canada and a married son who lives a few miles away on a farm The Creature used to own. Her husband had been killed, a victim of The Troubles two years after they were married. Thus, she had to raise the children alone.

Originally her farm was relatively prosperous, but the animals had all developed hoof-and-mouth disease and died. Nonetheless, she managed to keep body and soul together and to send the children away to school. Her son returned from the city after marrying a woman who despised The Creature. He and his wife had moved into the farm, but the young couple argued every night about money and the mother's presence, so The Creature signed the farm over to her son and moved away. That was 17 years ago; he had never visited her since.

The narrator goes to the farm, meets the son (by this time a passive and depressed middle aged man), and arranges for him to visit his mother. He does this, but the visit goes poorly. The narrator finally realizes that she has actually removed the last little glimmer of hope the old woman had; before seeing her son again, she could always hope that someday the two would be reunited, but after he visits, she realizes that he doesn't care about her and will probably never come back.

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