A husband and wife in Ireland struggle to make ends meet. Corry and Nuala, each 31 years old, have 3 children. Corry works at the joinery. He also carves religious statues on the side. A wealthy English woman is impressed by his artwork and encourages Corry to pursue his craft fulltime. His talent is undeniable, but there is no market for his wooden statues.

Now Nuala is pregnant and Corry is without a job. The English woman's wealth has vanished, and she can no longer help the couple financially. Nuala offers to sell her unborn baby to an infertile couple, Mr. and Mrs. Rynne, who long for a child of their own. Mrs. Rynne is shocked by Nuala's proposition and rejects it. Corry turns down work as an apprentice tombstone engraver but accepts a job working on the roads.

Nuala is angry about the way events have unfolded. She finds solace, however, in the concrete shed that functions as her husband's workshop. As she views the wooden figures of saints, Madonnas, and the Stations of the Cross created by her husband, Nuala concludes, "The world, not she, had failed" (152).


This tender story highlights the importance of love, faith, and perseverance when dealing with life's obstacles. It also raises the question of what we hold most sacred in our personal lives. Nuala is an intriguing character. This pregnant mother is willing to sell her unborn baby to provide financial support for her family, present her husband the opportunity to continue an artistic career, and give a child to a deserving but infertile couple. Acceptance of those things we cannot change emerges as a most blessed and essential trait of all the major characters in the story.

Primary Source

A Bit on the Side



Place Published

New York



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