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The Theme of Folkrole in “The Weir” by Conor McPherson and “By the Bog of Cats” by Marina Carr Essay


The two plays emerge from the popular elements of Irish folklore, which includes mysterious incidences, myths and ghosts. Carr’s play starts with a conversation between Hester, the Ghost Fancier, and Catwoman. The Ghost Fancier is out to find Hester Swane. Hester explains to the Ghost Fancier that Swane is her other name, and she is still alive.

At this point, the Ghost Fancier gets confused, and he notices that it was morning time and not evening time. He says, “Then I am too early. I confused this hour for dusk.” Besides, Catwoman, who is the town’s blind seer, backs prophesy of Hester’s death. Catwoman can communicate with ghosts, and she works as a folk healer in town. Carr portrays her as “a coat of fur that reaches the ground, studded with cat eyes and cat’s paws.”

Similarly, McPherson’s work has many ghost stories. As the play starts, we get introduced to the world of ghosts as Valerie tells her story of how she moved to her current place and the events that occurred. Valerie appears to have agreed with her ghosts or loss. She narrates her honest, personal experience to a crowd of strangers and the atmosphere of the scene changes immediately.

This makes Jack sincere as other men feel touched by her deep story of how she lost her child. Consequently, these men narrate ghost stories, which characterize the loneliness that they experience in their lives.

Jack’s story tells of his trip to Dublin where he attended the wedding of a past lover. Jack feels lonely, but this only persists for a short time. Despite the feeling, Jack goes back to his place where he finds the quiet life that he desires. “… irrational fear, I believe, that kept me here.” The story of the wedding together with other stories of local folklore supports the views of these men about city life and life at the country side.

Ghosts, in this case, represent the loss and the useless changes that they experience. All these ghosts’ stories seem to involve families. By using ghost stories, McPherson utilized valued material in both Irish drama and culture. The Irish people have a set of false ideas and narratives that correspond to the telling of ghost stories, whether they entail haunted places or strange people.

Several mysterious incidences also occur in the two plays. The stories of Valerie, Jack and Finbar, in McPherson’s work, portray a daughter and mother going through frightening or mystic associations. Jim’s story also portrays the plot of a family in the cemetery.

The supernatural aspect seems to override family relationships in all these stories. McPherson uses this style to emphasize the solitude of the narrators. Also, the title of McPherson’s work “The Weir” has a vital impact on the drama. A weir represents a more controllable and smaller boundary compared with the rest of the world.

Similar to other crossways, it rests amid two forces expecting to exploit the larger powers, which the silent, deep waters on the other world hold. It is obvious that the power of water, in an island culture, is not symbolic. Hence, the weir portrays characters that just rest at such a cultural or mental passage attempting to prove their forces to recover things, to appreciate why people visit some places regularly as well as why they had to travel and make this place a home.

Similarly, Catwoman, in Carr’s work, acts mysteriously when she imitates cats in the way she drinks milk, eats and catches the bog. While these behaviors seem strange, they are common in the folklore. The folklore depictions of ‘woman cat’ and ‘witch in the form of a cat’ mirrors the folkloric grouping of cats with people as well as the grouping of people and cats.

Also, Catwoman has a number of folkloric motifs since she can foretell mysterious circumstances such as death and suggestions of the fortune-teller. Carr’s work also demonstrates Catwoman to have another mystical character for being a witch. The play informs the reader that most characters in the play view her as a witch since this is what her actions in the play show. For instance, Carthage makes sure that she invites her to his wedding to avoid ill consequences as seen in the following conversation.

“Carthage: Well, Catwoman, what do ya predict for us?

Catwoman: I predict nothin’.

Carthage:Ah g’wan now, ya must have a blessin’ or a vision.”

The character of the Catwoman shows a folklore motif, which traverses folktales of different cultures. Women, who are witches, in Irish folklore, can move freely to places that get restricted to normal persons, in Ireland. In most cases, it is hard to tell whether this happens because of fear of curses or whether witches get all that respect in the country.

Another mystical feature in Carr’s work is the setting of the play. The play gets set in a rural bar at an isolated place. This represents the Irish culture as most ancient plays used rural drinking areas. Limitation of venues like concert rooms and the original Abbey Theater triggered this behavior, in ancient times.

Lastly, the two plays show several myths found in the Irish folklore. The story of Valerie in McPherson’s play involves the loss of a child. Irish folklore interprets these through the malicious actions of those persons who fell from heaven into the earth as spirits. Thus, such people did not get entertainment.

They also believed that children could be replaced by malicious spirits of the other world. In other words, they believed that evil spirits could steal young children in the form of death as seen in the “stolen child.” Similarly, Carr’s work shows a popular myth in the Irish folklore, which says that a person should never run away in fear of death. Hester receives several warnings about the risk of death if she does not leave the bog.

Cat woman comes out clearly on the consequences that may befall Hester while other people explain potential financial and social consequences. As the play ends, we find Hester killing her daughter in the same way that she killed Joseph her brother and later she kills herself through cutting her chest “like some dark feathered bird.” The folklore motif that says that a mother will pass away on the same date with her daughter explains the cause of these deaths.

In conclusion, the two works share the theme of Irish folklore through elements such as mysteries, myths and ghosts. Ghost stories appear at the start of both plays. In Carr’s play, we find the Ghost Fancier communicating with Hester. Also, we learn that Catwoman can communicate with ghosts. Similarly, in McPherson’s work, Valerie, Jack and other men narrate ghost stories.

We also find several mysterious incidences in the two plays. In McPherson’s work, the stories of Valerie, Jack, Finbar and Jim portray mystic associations. The title of the book “The Weir” also has some cultural inferences. Equally, Catwoman’s conduct in eating and drinking are common elements of folklore.

The setting of the play also demonstrates some aspects of Irish culture. Lastly, the two plays show several myths found in the Irish folklore. The myth in McPherson’s play involves the loss of a child while the myth in Carr’s work involves fear of death. Thus, both authors use various aspects of folklore in their works.

Works Cited

Carr, Marina. By the Bog of Cats. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2002. Print.

McPherson, Conor. The Weir, and Other Plays. Michigan: Theatre Communications Group, 1999. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2018, December 6). The Theme of Folkrole in "The Weir" by Conor McPherson and "By the Bog of Cats" by Marina Carr. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-folkrole-in-the-weir-by-conor-mcpherson-and-by-the-bog-of-cats-by-marina-carr/

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"The Theme of Folkrole in "The Weir" by Conor McPherson and "By the Bog of Cats" by Marina Carr." IvyPanda, 6 Dec. 2018, ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-folkrole-in-the-weir-by-conor-mcpherson-and-by-the-bog-of-cats-by-marina-carr/.

1. IvyPanda. "The Theme of Folkrole in "The Weir" by Conor McPherson and "By the Bog of Cats" by Marina Carr." December 6, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-folkrole-in-the-weir-by-conor-mcpherson-and-by-the-bog-of-cats-by-marina-carr/.


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IvyPanda. "The Theme of Folkrole in "The Weir" by Conor McPherson and "By the Bog of Cats" by Marina Carr." December 6, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-folkrole-in-the-weir-by-conor-mcpherson-and-by-the-bog-of-cats-by-marina-carr/.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "The Theme of Folkrole in "The Weir" by Conor McPherson and "By the Bog of Cats" by Marina Carr." December 6, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-theme-of-folkrole-in-the-weir-by-conor-mcpherson-and-by-the-bog-of-cats-by-marina-carr/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'The Theme of Folkrole in "The Weir" by Conor McPherson and "By the Bog of Cats" by Marina Carr'. 6 December.

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