The pregnancy shows Mabel’s importance because despite the fact that O’Neill has mistresses which he keeps in the same house as Mabel, he really does love her. The mistresses are evidently a factor of O’Neill’s culture, differing from Mabel’s upbringing; this is perhaps why Mabel arouses the matter during this significant argument, as a display of the fact that she is English and he is not. Socially it is seen as quite corrupt to have a mistress, especially more than one living under the same roof as your wife, but, in context, the mistresses are there simply to satisfy a physical and sexual need of O’Neill.
Conversely, Mabel plays a more key role, she is O’Neill’s emotional support throughout the play, and from start to finish O’Neill demonstrates his love for Mabel. Taking the single fact that Mabel is pregnant it does not appear that O’Neill has stopped physically loving her and so, it is true to say that Mabel plays an actively role in many aspects of O’Neill’s life. Throughout the opening of the play O’Neill is mainly concerned with Mabel and changing his house to incorporate her and make her feel comfortable and welcome.
It is also significant that O’Neill’s last lines in the play are ‘Mabel, I am sorry… please forgive me, Mabel… ‘ It seems O’Neill remains true to Mabel throughout the play and really is remorseful for the way that they ended up. Very infrequently throughout the play does Mabel show any signs of holding back and being afraid of O’Neill; she is often forthright in speaking her opinions and at the pivotal moment O’Neill is clearly surprised and slightly angered at how much Mabel knows him.
The difference between the English and the Irish is shown in their approaches to farming. The English tend towards husbandry farming, cultivating the land and living off of it’s produce whereas the Irish prefer to pastoral farm by owning cattle like sheep and horses. The contradiction is shown here when Mabel’s sister Mary comes to visit and makes a point of giving Mabel herbs from the English garden, as a nostalgic token but also to remind Mabel what she has missed by deserting her family back at home.
The packets that Mary gives out are labelled and organised, perhaps symbolic of general English behaviour to have everything neat and arranged, not to act irrationally without thinking. Mary also makes a point of mentioning not to ‘plant the fennel near the dill’ for fear that ‘the two will cross-fertilize’. Mabel replies innocently ‘is that bad? ‘ perhaps showing her inexperience with plants, illustrating the change now that she has moved home and left to live with O’Neill. Mary informs Mabel that is this happens ‘you’ll end up with a seed that’s neither one thing or the other’.
This could be a reference that Mabel, by switching sides, has become cross-fertilized, being neither English nor Irish. More literally, it could be taken as a reference to the child of Mabel’s that O’Neill fathers, and how it is inappropriate in Mary’s eyes to breed with the enemy, O’Neill. O’Neill is perfectly justifies in insisting that Mabel plays a central role in Lombard’s history because it is a book describing what is important to O’Neill and the history of O’Neill’s story and his role in the Irish troubles.
Mabel has played a key role in O’Neill’s life and therefore, should be a contributing factor to Lombard’s history book. By leaving her family and switching sides at the beginning of the play she has shown a great faith in O’Neill, he is the enemy of her family and the embodiment of everything that she has been brought up to despise. By committing to this relationship, leaving home and making such a controversial move, Mabel has really dishonoured her family, and therefore, they have pretty much disowned her; her dying father left personal messages for everybody apart from Mabel.
It is only her sister Mary who maintains brief contact with Mabel after she has joined O’Neill. Because of this, Mabel really has to make her relationship with O’Neill work; she really has no-one but him and has made so many sacrifices for him. O’Neill does show some commitment to Mabel when they get married by getting the protestant bishop Tom Jones to marry them, much to the horror of O’Neill close friends Lombard and Harry.
When he declares that he is married, the pair of them speculate in a joking manner about who is his new wife is, illustrating the point that previously O’Neill has been open about his sexual conquests but neither Lombard or Harry know anything of Mabel, probably because Mabel is truly more important. Throughout the play Mabel appears to be one of the closest people to O’Neill and therefore, deserves to be portrayed correctly and with much credit in Lombard’s history.
The sacrifices she made for O’Neill as such a young woman to someone much older than herself alone make her significant. Mabel remains as support to O’Neill throughout much of the play and is clearly incredibly important to him, and therefore, deserves fully to be in the book. Zi?? e North 12fii Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Brian Friel section.