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.

167 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.’

    • analysis for a short story well deserving. the relation to African context can be enriching and bringing it closer to learners’ understanding of the differences or similarities that we see in our former prisoners’ wives and them.

  • 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.

  • So who is Molly trying to convince between herself and her husband that she “needs” the coat?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Moleboheng. Molly is trying to convince both herself and Paddy that she needs the fur coat. She seems to be reliant on Paddy when it comes to giving her the green light as she doesn’t want to green light the coat by herself.

  • Can you please tell me all the characters in the story.

  • The internal and the external conflict please

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The internal conflict would be how Molly feels about getting the fur coat. She is torn. Part of her wants the coat and the other part of her knows that she doesn’t need it. As for external conflict it might be case that Molly feels as though she is battling with Paddy so that she can get the fur coat.

  • What event brought on the discussion about fur coats?

  • Explain the irony in Molly’s accusation when she says Paddy is mean.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Paddy isn’t mean as he has already offered Molly the money to buy a fur coat. If anything Molly is indecisive not knowing whether she wants a fur coat or not.

  • How would one tell just by looking at Molly that she’d had a tough life?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      O’Faolain tells the reader that the years had ‘polished her hard – politics, revolution, husband in and out of prison, children reared with the help of relatives and Prisoners’ Dependents funds. You could see the years on her finger tips, too pink, too coarse, and in her diamond bright eyes.’

  • 1. What was the reason that Molly could not get a fur coat .
    2. what does it mean Paddy says that they had thin times?
    3. what are the two reasons that paddy thinks a fur coat will be a good thing?
    4. why is paddy referred to as innocent and in experienced
    5. Discuss the hardships that paddy and Molly had to face

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Molly herself decided against getting a fur coat.
      2. Paddy was in prison for a period of time so Molly had a little or no money.
      3. Paddy thinks Molly should have some comfort after the thin times. Also Paddy thinks Molly would not only look good in a fur coat but would be better than other women if she had a fur coat.
      4. Paddy is thinking he is being extravagant as is befitting his new position as a Parliamentary Secretary but he doesn’t really understand the situation or the cost of a good fur coat.
      5. Paddy and Molly went through a revolution together. Paddy himself was in and out of prison and the Paddy and Molly’s children were reared for a period of time on money from others (Prisoners’ Dependents’ Fund).

  • What are the differences between molly and paddy?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      One difference is that Molly strives to impress others or at least wants to. While Paddy appears to be happy with the situation he finds himself in. Though it is not difficult for Paddy to be happy considering he is a Parliamentary Secretary. Another difference is that Molly is not satisfied. She believes a fur coat will better her. Yet Paddy will find it difficult to better himself (job wise). He is possibly at the pinnacle of his career.

  • The next moment it died in her. What does that mean?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      When Molly first sees the cheque she is excited but this excitement turns to a realization that she was in the wrong. She had called Paddy mean when she really knew he wasn’t. Molly knows that she is in the wrong and has put Paddy under too much pressure. That’s why she feels as though her heart has died.

  • meaning of the fur coat…?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The fur coat could symbolise many things. One of which is aspirations (Molly wanting the coat). It could also symbolise class. Molly associates wearing a fur coat with successful middle class women. While she herself is a working class woman. If anything Molly looks upon a fur coat as being a status symbol.

  • translation of “Wan of ye”

  • What is meant by “painted jades that never lifted a finger for God or man”

  • Pls explain what it means” There was a pier down in Kerry to be looked at”?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      A pier is a platform on pillars projecting from the shore into the sea. Kerry is a place in Ireland. Paddy works as Parliamentary Secretary to the Mister for Roads and Railways. Planning the building or removal of something would be part of Paddy’s job.

  • Thank u Dermot…clear now.

  • Paddy Maguire’s reply to her request is of course, of course…Get two fur coats! What does his reply reveal to the reader about his character.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Either Paddy is being extravagant (and doesn’t know the cost of a fur coat) or he is being sarcastic. Most likely he is being extravagant.

  • what evidence is there that they have not been and are now not wealthy?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Paddy spent time in prison and Molly was reliant on the Prisoners’ Dependents’ fund. The fact that Molly has to mend clothes rather than being able to afford to buy new clothes suggests that Molly is not wealty even though Paddy has a good job.

  • ‘You could see the years on her fingertips… and in her diamond-bright eyes.
    4.1. Is the phrase ‘years on her fingertips ‘ being used literally or figuratively?
    4.2. explain in your own words what it means.
    4.3. Why has the author selected to compare her eyes to diamonds in this sentence?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. Figuratively

      2. How old a person is. How they might have quickly aged.

      3. There is a richness about Molly?

  • when he hears how much a genuine fur coat could cost,Paddy ‘drew into himself’ and soon after takes out his briefcase. What does this tell the reader?

  • Molly puts the children to bed as if ‘throwing sacks of turf’.

    what is suggested about the children’s bedtime?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Life is a chore to Molly. If anything her life lacks luxury. Something she believes the fur coat will bring.

  • After the children are in bed, molly sits at the fire and begins mending pyjamas. For a while she is quiet and stares into the fire. What does she think about?

  • what adjectives best describes Paddy Maguire??

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It’s a difficult question as each reader will interpret Paddy differently. Perhaps he could be viewed upon as careful and ambitious

  • Paddy Maguire begins to focus more on the plans he has in front of him, of a pier that is in the planning stages.He keeps thinking of ways to make the pier smaller and cutting coasts in its construction.

    Do the thoughts he is having about the pier represent what he is thinking about in his subconscious mind?

  • The conversation about the fur coat continues back and forth until she suddenly adopts a different attitude.

    explain her behaviour and his reaction

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It’s a difficult question to answer as Molly appears not to wnat the fur coat and Paddy is willing to pay for it.

  • What does the fur cost symbolise for molly?

  • The conflict in this story is partly between Molly and Paddy, and partly internal-within Molly.At the end of the story mixed feeling cause her to sob. Explain these conflicting feelings?

  • The story is set in Ireland and colloquial language has been used to make it aunthetic.

    13.1. Do u think the language limits the story to a particular setting g or time? Discuss

    13.2. Select 6-10 lines from the story where a number of colloquial expressions appear and rewrite in South African English, The English you would use if expressing those ideas

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. A lot of the colloquial language used in the story would still be in use in Ireland today. So the language used would not necessarily limit the story to a particular time.

      2. I would not be familiar with South African English.

  • References of the fur coat?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m not sure what you mean by references. If you mean what does the fur coat symbolize. Then the answer would be social status and class.

  • Why is Paddy referred to as innocent and inexperienced

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Possibly because he is acting extravagantly when he suggests to Molly to go to Switzer’s (store). He has no idea of the cost of a fur coat and is acting on good intentions rather than on wisdom.

  • Why is molly described as handsome not beautiful?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Though handsome is usually used to refer to the attractiveness of a man and beautiful to the attractiveness of a woman usually a young woman. It may be a case that the narrator is suggesting that as Molly is no longer a young woman. She still remains handsome in her own way. It is not necessarily a sleight on Molly’s appearance.

  • Now I know the setting, characterization, themes, conflict and crisis. What is the resolution?

  • Do you sympathise with Paddy Maguire in this extract? Discuss your views.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I can’t answer your question Zandile as you haven’t given me the extract. Give me the first and last line of the extract and I’ll have a look through the story.

  • How relevant is the title “the fur coat” in this story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The title is most likely symbolic of the divide that existed at the time between social classes.

  • What is the theme of the story?

  • How many children do Paddy and Molly have?

  • “now Paddy I must have a fur coat” was Molly being reasonable asking her husband for such an expensive luxury item

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It all depends on your perspective. Some people will think that Molly due to the hardships she has endured. Should be rewarded with a fur coat. While others might feel as though Molly is forgetting who she really is with the reality being she doesn’t really need a fur coat. It is more of a status symbol for Molly.

  • Why has molly asked for a fur coat?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Paddy has been promoted in work and is earning better money. Molly considers Paddy to be a man of importance now and as such she should be important too.

  • After tearing the cheque, molly changes her mind again and at the end of the story she is the proud owner of a fur coat, Is the statement true or false? Provide reason from the story.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The statement is false. The story ends with Paddy asking Molly why she doesn’t want a fur coat and Molly answering ‘I don’t know.’

  • What does the fur coat symbolise in the story?

  • Explain both figurative and literal meaning

  • “she hit him below the belt” is this a figurative or literal?

  • Explain figurative and literal meaning.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Figurative language should not be taken literally. While literal language uses words exactly according to their conventionally accepted meanings.

  • 1.describe paddy’s attitude towards molly.
    2.explain why Switzers would give the macquires ‘any amount of tick from now on.’
    3.explain why molly reveals mixed feelings of affection and irritation.
    4.the years had polished her hard.

    explain both literal and figurative meaning of the words

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It’s been a long time since I read the story. Your questions would require a closer inspection of the story. If I answer your questions I would only be working from memory which may be misleading and incorrect. But here goes.

      1. Paddy wants Molly to get the fur coat but when he realises the price he is hesitant. However when he sees how much Molly wants the coat he gives her the money for the coat.
      2. Paddy has a powerful job and as such a higher salary. He would feel that Switzers would consider him not be a risk when it comes to giving him tick (or credit).
      3. Molly may be charming Paddy and when she realises he is hesitant about giving her the money for the fur coat she becomes irritated.
      4. Literally it means just as a polished object loses its shine by being polished too hard and often so too has Molly. Figuratively the sentence means the years had toughened Molly. She is not as innocent or naive as she once was.

      I would recommend that you go through the story for yourself to double check the answers.

  • Identify and Discuss one theme of the story which is evident in this extract

  • What was the fund that helped Molly?

  • Explain how Molly’s attitude changes?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Molly realises that she doesn’t need a fur coat to define who she is. Though at the same time she has doubts about who she may be.

  • 1 was paddy Maguire against his wife getting a fur coat?

    2. What reasons does molly give for getting a coat?

    3.What reasons does she have perhaps not getting a coat

    4 What value does paddy Maguire see in a fur coat

    5 Why does the author describe Maguira working on the pier during discussion

    6 Does she want a fur coat?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      It might serve you better to read the story as I’m working from memory.

      1. Paddy thought Molly should get the fur coat but he became hesitant when he found out the cost. Nonetheless he still gave Molly the money for the coat.

      2. Molly believes that as Paddy is now a man of importance (like other men mentioned in the story deValera and General Mulcahy). As his wife she should have a fur coat. The coat acts as a status symbol for Molly.

      3. Molly may feel as though it is too expensive and goes against everything she knows. She does not want to forget her roots.

      4. Paddy thinks that Molly will be as important as the wives of the men (deValera and General Mulcahy) mentioned in the story.

      5. Paddy is trying to save money but at the same time exert his control in his new position.

      6. Molly wants a fur coat but changes her mind at the end of the story. Though interestingly she tells Paddy she doesn’t know why she doesn’t want the fur coat.

  • List the various types of coat

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      If you go through the story you’ll find the various types of fur coats that Molly mentions.

  • Which of the two characters do you sympathize with in the story? Give a reason for your answer.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I sympathize with Molly the most. She gets a little lost when she starts to think about getting a fur coat. In many ways she forgets her identity.

  • 1.Name two characters in the story and their occupations
    2.what event sparks the discussion about the fur coat?
    3.Discuss the irony in the woman’s demand of a fur coat.
    4.Explain why the fur coat is so important to her?
    5.According to your knowledge of the story provide evidence that they are not financially sound.
    6.in your opinion why is the husband reluctant to buy the coat?
    7.identify the main theme of this story .

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      If you read the story, the post and my replies to previously asked questions on the story. You’re sure to find an answer to your questions.

  • Why does Molly maguire ask for a fur coat

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Molly views a fur coat to be a status symbol. She considers other women (wives of deValera and General Mulcahy) to be important and she thinks that should she have a fur coat. She will be as important as them.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Molly in fact thinks she is as important as the wives of deValera and Mulcahy.

  • At the beginning of the story they said “for she was a handsome little woman” what are the bacically saying about Molly?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      O’Faolain could be saying many things. He could be giving the reader a simple physical description of Molly or he may be symbolically suggesting Molly has been beaten by the years. Handsome as a description usually refers to a man. Molly has had to play the male role in her marriage. Providing for her children while Paddy was in prison. Also the fact that she is described as little could suggest she is of a slight stature or that she is a woman of no importance. Unlike the wives of deValera and General Mulcachy.

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