Light and Darkness in Dancing at Lughnasa

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Light and Dark in Dancing at Lughnasa 4

Light and Dark in Dancing at Lughnasa

Dancing at Lughnasa presents the reader with a dark and depressing viewpoint but thankfully this text has some moments of laughter and happiness that lift our spirits. Michael opens the story, as narrator and character, on a nostalgic note, recalling the summer of 1936.

Michael mentions a number of events that add to the promise of a happy ending:

  • the Mundy family got their first wireless set (Macaroni) and this provided the family with music, ‘it obsessed us’
  • Father Jack returned from Africa where he worked in Uganda for 25 years in a leper colony
  • Michael’s father appeared twice during the summer

These events all took place during that summer of 1936 and in the background was the Festival of Lughnasa – a pagan celebration of harvest encouraging drinking and wild dancing in the hills.

In this play, family life is portrayed in both negatively and positively. The Mundy family have to deal with a variety of problems all associated with poverty. The furniture is ‘austere’ and their clothing ‘reflect[s] their lean circumstances’. The girls also have to deal with the embarrassment of Father Jack who has ‘gone native’ during his stay in Africa.

Meanwhile, it is Father Jack’s mad behaviour that causes the parish priest to sack Kate from her teaching post, leaving the Mundy family with no steady source of income. Gerry, Michael’s father, visits Chris but selfishly contributes nothing to the ...

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