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The shadow of a gunman

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Sean O’Casey paints a very dangerous although not totally realistic picture of the life and people of the Dublin tenements in 1920. He is not wrong, but just over exaggerates to make it more interesting. The play is about a man (Donal Davoren) who is ‘the shadow of a gunman’. He actually is just a ‘poet on the run’ but most of the members of the tenements think he’s an ‘IRA gunman on the run’! The reason for not telling people he is not a gunman is the young and beautiful Minnie Powell; she falls in love with not him, BUT his imaginary status of being a runaway gunman.

A good example of this is where Seamus says “A Helen of Troy come to live in a tenement! You think a lot about her simply because she thinks a lot about you, an’ she thinks a lot about you because she looks upon you as a hero – a kind o’Paris…… she’d give the worl’ and all to be gaddin’ about with a gunman” Donal was a poet; his visual possessions are the sort of things you would expect, typewriter, books, paper and some flowers. Seamus on the other hand was a very religious man and is a ‘peddlar’, his possessions were things such as the bible, religious statues and his peddlar’s goods.

Poverty is shown in this play quite dramatically, as most of the tenants are visibly poor. Language as in any play plays a very important part in the overall affect of the production. Donal as we know is a poet, and he speaks with poetic quotations. Seamus we know is very religious and he speaks very religiously, with moaning judgements on everything and always prays. Tommy Owens speaks and sings as if he is a fearless galiant Irishman, although we know this probably is not the case. Tommy always talks about fighting for his country, but the play suggests this man is mealy all talk!

Adolphus Grigson is similar to Tommy as he makes out to be something he is not. He portrays him self as a ‘hard man’, but when the ‘black and Tans’ raid he is terrified, but tries to cover himself up by scaring his wife. Grigson is also a heavy drinker, and is from Northern Island himself. His wife (Mrs. Grigson) acts as his slave, if she does not do what he wants then she gets beaten, therefore she is forced to lie and correct herself a lot! Mrs Henderson is a ‘big lady’ meaning she acts as if she is in control and is very bossy.

This is shown in the scene with the frail, nervous old man ‘Mr. Gallagher’, he is quite nervous about his ‘great letter’ so Mrs. Henderson takes control of the conversation and all he does is agree with her. He is obviously and intelligent man, easily recognisable when he speaks, yet he is too scared to disagree or correct the intimidating Mrs. Henderson. Minnie Powell is a very naivve character, yet she’s not too heartless. She attempts to get around Donal with her ‘sweet talk’ her poignant, brave last words of ‘up the republic’ show her ignorance and romantic illusions.

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