Boyle drives out to the cottage to visit Joady, who is dying of cancer. Dinny and Joady are two elderly brothers who live together. "In all his years Joady had never slept away from the cottage," until recently when he went to the hospital and had an operation. Boyle and Dinny speak about how, a week earlier, they had been stopped by police in a helicopter as they were driving to the hospital to visit Joady--this was the day after an IRA bombing in which five people lost their lives. When they reached the hospital, they spoke to the surgeon who told them that Joady was terminal. By this time (back at the cottage), Joady knows that he is dying. However, he follows his normal routine, apparently unchanged, while Dinny is sullen, distracted, and complaining.


A man is dying of cancer. He responds to his death sentence with equanimity, while his brother (and evidently lifelong partner) seems to decompensate. This domestic scene is played out against a backdrop of Ireland's civil strife, which these men accept as the normal state of affairs.

Interestingly, this story demonstrates that "bad news" doesn't necessarily harm the ill person by kicking away the props of hope, even in the case of a traditional rural Irishman. Here, at the patient's request, the surgeon adopts the modern approach of telling it like it is, but the patient himself seems to respond in a positive way, while it is his brother who falls apart.

Primary Source

Heritage and Other Stories


Mercier Press

Place Published

Cork, Republic of Ireland



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