The Potato Gatherers

Topics: Research

The sample essay on The Potato Gatherers deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches, and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.

This is a short play written by a man named Brian Friel. The theme is that of two young boys who have been sent out by their mother to work on a potato harvest. This means skipping off school in order to carry out this work. Obviously the family is very poor or the mother is unable to work for herself.

It is set in Ireland, the home country of Brian Friel (the author), around the time of the start of the “troubles”. The boys are very young to be working to support their families needs, Joe was thirteen and Philly was twelve. This was not Joe’s first time of working for the mentioned Mr.

Kelly so he was not very excited at the prospect of working so early in the morning.

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However this was Philly’s first time at real “mans” work and due to his young age he was very excitable and enthusiastic. The play is set mainly in the potato field which is closely situated to their school. The play is set in Tyrone in North Ireland the play is set. It is a cold November morning and there is frost on the ground. Not exactly ideal situation for gathering potatoes but Philly is still wide-awake this early and rearing to go. It was six o’clock in the morning.

The Second Shepherds Play Summary

The boys were chatting away without a care for whoever they could wake. To see his younger brother so excited actually woke Joe up and he started to get excited too. They display their immaturity when they pass a friend’s house and the school; they just can’t help themselves but cheer and taunt. The story is focused on how the children have been brought up to act, how they have been sent to work and miss school because of the obvious need for money in the family and how proud the boys are that they are doing their share of work to help their family survive.

It also focuses on the totally different personalities of the two boys, possibly because of the age difference or maturity. Joe is quite calm and mellow, he has worked before and he knows exactly what to expect of his day. Philly is very energetic and enthusiastic about his new experience of work and nothing would be able to calm him down. Even though Joe is much more mature than Philly he still plays along with his little brothers cowboy fantasies and games just to make him happy and pass the time.

They play is set in a time where western films are very popular and just happen to one of Philly’s favorite things ever. During the run of the play he goes through several fantasies of what he is going to buy and gun fighting imaginary foes. In total he has four main items he wishes to purchase. His dreams involve a gun, a gaff, a scout knife and a bicycle. As they are on there way to work Philly is imaging he already owns the gun and pretends to shoot at a cat. The constant repetition emphasizes both Philly’s love for westerns and his childlike imagination.

The viewpoint of the story, in my opinion, is largely based from Joe’s point of view. However some of the speech structure seems to be from the younger child’s aspect. It is all written as if you are watching over Philly yourself. It describes his actions in a lot of detail but then roughly describes how Joe reacts. It is typical of a play to have more than one authorial viewpoint. Brian Friel makes the boys short speeches sound as if Joe is a father figure giving his little boy (Philly) advice.

It is possible, due to the absence of any mention, that the boys do not have a father figure and hence another reason for the need to work. The mention of time throughout the play makes it seem as if for Joe the day is going very, very slowly. But to Philly it is racing by to begin with but then slows down. Philly has a lot more dialogue in the story, but this could be due to his hyperactivity. There is only a minor age gap between the two boys but the gap in the age they act is incredibly different and very well displayed by Friels usage of language.

Philly seems to constantly be on a new adventure in his fantasyland within his own mind. And Joe is more than happy to play along to satisfy his brothers needs for interaction. Joe obviously loves his brother just the way he is, but he knows that after working a few shifts at the potato field his childlike inconvenience and energy will be worn down and lost. When their school friend, Dicey O’Donnel, walks past the field they are not the ones taunting any more and he is in fact bragging to them how they are going to get strongly punished.

In the end after the boys had finished their long day of work they are on their way home. They are resting on each other in the back of the truck quietly talking. This displays the closeness some brothers have. This closeness probably developed because everything one of the boys has done (Joe) the other is now getting the chance to go out and repeat (Philly). Philly looks up to his brother. The conversation at this point is very different compared to the rest of the story. It is subtler, Philly is worn out and this time it is Joe daydreaming about what he is going to buy with his money.

And unlike Joe, willing to play along, Philly takes the mature role and says: ” Ma won’t give us back enough to buy anything much… ” The excitement is no longer present in his voice and instead he is sulking and sullen. After just one-day work Philly’s outlook has been changed and he has grown up. Childhood didn’t last very long for these two boys. Joe’s final thought is that he wants to buy a pair of red silk socks. This proves that neither of the boys will ever really grow up, and still like to dream of possibilities not available to them at that moment.

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The Potato Gatherers. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

The Potato Gatherers
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