The Fur Coat by Sean O’Faolain

The Fur Coat - Sean O'FaolainIn The Fur Coat by Sean O’Faolain we have the theme of desire, aspiration, appearance, change and identity. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that O’Faolain may be exploring the theme of desire. Molly strongly wants to get the fur coat. She believes that she will be properly dressed should she own a fur coat. However her basic instincts stop her from getting the coat. This may be important as O’Faolain may be using the fur coat as symbolism for success and Molly may feel as though she does not really deserve the fur coat. The success that the family has achieved is more to do with her husband’s appointment as Parliamentary Secretary than it is to do with anything that Molly has done. Molly’s life is simple. She looks after her children, is a full time housewife and rather than buying new clothes for her children mends their clothes. Which could also be important. A fur coat as Molly is fully aware is an expensive purchase. The money could be used for clothes for the children rather than having Molly spend it on herself. If anything Molly may feel swept away or overwhelmed by her husband’s appointment. Imagining herself to be able to live a life she has never lived before.

O’Faolain also appears to be exploring the theme of appearance and just how important appearance is to Molly. Something that is noticeable when Molly makes reference to the wives of both deValera and General Mulcahy. She is likening herself to these women as though she too has the same importance due to her husband’s new appointment. Maguire’s appointment means that Molly will mix in new circles and she wants to look good and to be an equal to others. Something she does not feel she is at the moment. At the moment Molly sees herself as no more than an ordinary housewife unlike the wives of deValera and General Mulcahy. If anything there is a sense that Molly may feel ashamed of who she is and believes that a fur coat or even a set of new dresses will change her for the better. That Molly is just as good as the wives of deValera and General Mulcahy.

It is also noticeable that Molly becomes preoccupied with getting a fur coat, listing the various types of coats to Maguire along with the cost of each coat. This preoccupation is important as it suggests that Molly is dissatisfied with her life and that she wishes for something else. However it is also noticeable that Molly at times is being practical when it comes to the cost of a coat. This may be important as it suggests that Molly can still understand the value of money. Something that has possibly been triggered by her circumstances (Maguire in prison). If anything Molly is unprepared for the new circle that she will be mixing in and may have low self-esteem. Believing that how she appears (the clothes she wears) is more important than the character she is. It is also possible that Molly is placing others on a pedestal that they may not necessarily deserve. The wives of deValera and General Mulcahy’s being an example.

The end of the story is also interesting as Molly comes full circle and accepts that she does not want (or need) a fur coat. Despite Maguire providing her with the money Molly has second thoughts. Though Molly tells Maguire she doesn’t know why she has changed her mind it is possible that Molly has realised that she is who she is. That she does not need to compete with the wives of deValera or General Mulcahy. That she does not need to change who she is. It might also be a case that Molly realises that she may have been selfish, thinking only of herself and not her family. It is also possible that Molly, having spent so many years struggling, is defeated or beaten and no longer has the energy required to be something that she knows she really isn’t. Molly has lived her life as part of a political struggle and may not be able to forget this. For that reason she probably is aware that the fur coat is more for appearance than practicality. Yet Molly is unable as previously mentioned to forget who she is. Regardless of the change in the political landscape of Ireland and Maguire’s new appointment Molly can remember what it is like to struggle. Something that is also noticeable by the fact that she spent the evening mending her children’s clothes. It may also be possible that Molly has realised that a fur coat symbolises the spoils of war. A war that cost so many lives and resulted in Maguire’s imprisonment. Molly may no longer feel comfortable with the idea of wearing a fur coat when others have sacrificed so much for her freedom. The reader sensing at the end of the story that Molly has not forgotten her true identity. The wife of a former political prisoner and the mother of children in a fledgling State (Ireland).

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "The Fur Coat by Sean O'Faolain." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 4 Jun. 2017. Web.

56 comments

  • Does she find the fur coat?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Puleng. Molly doesn’t get the fur coat at the end of the story. She realises that she doesn’t need one.

      • Why does Molly not need a fur coat?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          Thanks for the comment Thabo. Most likely Molly realises that she wasn’t being true to either herself or her roots. At first Molly wants to be like other women who are perceived to be successful but on reconsideration she realises that she doesn’t really need a fur coat.

        • Quote two consecutive sentences to prove molly doesn’t consider herself to be a vain?

          • Dermot (Post Author)

            Thanks for the comment Thabo. A few sentences I’ve come across are when Molly says ‘I can assure you, Paddy, that I loathe – I simply loathe all this modern show-off’. Also the line ‘I don’t want a fur coat for a show-off’ and ‘I don’t want a fur coat for grandeur.’ and ‘I’ve told you before that they dress! And I’ve no time to dress. I’ve explained all that to you.’

  • What is meant by a fur coat in the extract and what was the significance

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Martia. The fur coat most likely symbolizes wealth, prosperity and social status. Molly wants a fur coat because she wants to be like the wives of some important men (DeValera and General Mulcahy). However by the end of the story she remembers her roots and does not want the fur coat.

  • Was Paddy being “mean” for not providing a fur coat for his wife Molly? And what happened to them afterwards?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not so sure that Paddy is being mean. It may just be a case that he doesn’t really have the extra cash available to him for Molly to buy a fur coat. It might also be worth noting that Paddy does eventually give Molly the money for a fur coat and Molly decides against buying one.

      I’m not sure what happens Paddy and Molly after the story ends. Though one thing is sure Molly realises who she really is.

  • Did the fur coat bring a conflict between two couple?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Reason. In some ways Molly blamed Paddy for not being able to get the fur coat. Though by the end of the story there is no animosity between either Molly or Paddy.

  • Was Molly trying to convince Paddy that she needed a fur coat, or was she trying to convince herself? Give reasons for the answer.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Samuel. Molly does try and convince both herself and Paddy that she needs a fur coat. Something that is noticeable by the fact that Molly wants to look as important as DeValera’s and General Mulcahy’s wives. She considers both women to be women of importance and she too longs to be a woman of importance.

  • What exactly is the theme and setting of the story? Please

  • Who is Switzer in this story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Sanele. Switzer’s was a department store in Dublin at the time the story was written.

  • Why Maguire cried at the beginning of the story?

  • Is Molly Maguire making a reasonable request plz discuss your views?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Smanga. Some critics will suggest that Molly is being reasonable because Paddy can now afford to buy Molly a fur coat since he has been promoted in work. While others might suggest Molly is being unreasonable because she is forgetting where she is coming from and she doesn’t really need a fur coat. She only wants the coat as a status symbol.

  • Was there a certain part where there was conflict or argument?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Kgaugelo. There is a sense of conflict (or argument) when Molly thinks that Paddy is refusing to give her the money to buy the fur coat. It is really noticeable when Molly ‘hurled the basket of mending’ at Paddy. Molly accusing Paddy of having a ‘peasant streak.’

  • Why did the writer use the spelling….Bloody wan of ye’. Which is not conventional English?

    And ‘You are all alike, every bloody wan of ye’

    Who’s are all being referred to?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Nduraa. O’Faolain is using Irish vernacular the story is set in Ireland.

      Though the sentence is directed at Paddy. Molly is suggesting that Paddy is like all Irish people who might have a ‘peasant streak.’

  • Why does Molly reveal mixed feelings (affection and irritation)?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment BMS. It is possible that Molly is somewhat confused throughout the story. She wants the fur coat to impress and be like others hence the affection towards Maguire. However her identity or who she perceives herself to be does not allow her to get the coat. Hence the irritation. It is as though there is an internal battle (or conflict) within Molly.

  • “The years had polished her hard” Explain both literal and figurative meaning of these words.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      O’Faolain is using a metaphor to suggest that Molly has been toughen by the years. She is not the same woman that she previously had been.

      • That figurative and literal?

        • Dermot (Post Author)

          As far as I know it is. The figurative (language) would be a metaphor as far as I can work out. And the literal is Molly being toughened by the years.

          • Ok thanks…..and here

            She had hit ….below the belt
            Explain both literal and figurative meaning

            • Dermot (Post Author)

              It is a metaphor being used by O’Faolain. To suggest that Molly has been unconventional with her engagement (or attack) of Maguire. She has not followed any rules for her engagement and just as it is incorrect for a boxer to hit below the belt. So too has Molly.

  • Is the name of her husband paddu?

  • There is part……Mean?gasped Maguire…….Mean!

    Which one word describe paddys feeling and where or wht is irony in Molly accusation??

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The word mean describes Paddy’s outrage at Molly’s suggestion the he is being mean to her. He has offered to buy a coat for Molly but she remains undecided. Which is somewhat ironic as Molly has the opportunity to buy the fur coat but hesitates. Something she can’t blame on Maguire.

  • Why does Molly decide to have a fur coat and why at the end tho, does she decide against that?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment M. Molly decides against the coat because it would go against her identity. By having the fur coat Molly wouldn’t be who she is.

  • Describe the character traits of both Molly and Paddy

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Molly is a headstrong woman who is driven by emotion. Something that is noticeable throughout the story when she thinks and thinks again about getting a fur coat. Paddy is a listener and is diligent. He works throughout the story on plans for a pier. Molly too is hard at work when she is discussing the fur coat with Paddy.

  • What was happening when Paddy tries to reduce the pier by five yards..I don’t get this at all. And did he steal the money of the check he gave it to Molly?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Nsina. By reducing the pier by five yards Paddy is trying to save the Department money. Suggesting that he may be frugal. However it is noticeable that Paddy isn’t as frugal when it comes to giving the check to Molly. Money which comes from his wages and which was not stolen.

  • Thanks I was so clueless

  • Is Switzers in beginning a clothing shop? “Molly Maguire looked at him with affection and irritation”. Describe what it means and what she feels at that moment

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Yes Switzers was a department store in Dublin at the time the story was written. The statement highlights the mixed feelings that Molly has towards Paddy at that particular time. Paddy agrees that Molly should get a fur coat but Molly doesn’t know if Paddy is being sarcastic or not.

  • Give 2-3 reasons why Molly wants a fur coat or the main reason why.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The main reason Molly wanted the fur coat was because the wives of some important men (deValera and General Mulcahy) had fur coats. Molly considers a fur coat to be a status symbol showing her own perceived importance.

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